Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Day 72 of self-isolation - this is what Covid-19 can feel like

 This is a guest post by Ian. He fell ill in mid-Mach, and this is what he experienced.

Corona Experience

I fell ill just over two weeks after visiting Paris. It turned out that the ' smokers cough ' of my agent was a bit more than that.

My wife is a kidney transplant patient of over 20 years. She was to become my nurse during shielding and lockdown.

In mid-March I felt unwell but I couldn't put a finger on it. I was tired, thick headed but no cough. I did have the odd sneeze but I had no temperature. So I went to bed with half a paracetamol in the middle of the afternoon. My wife went for a walk.

I didn't get up the next day nor the next. I knew I wasn't well but I had little to show for it.

Then came the cricket bat attack. I literally exploded in runny faeces. And then came the fatigue. Fatigue at a level I had never experienced. I could barely get out of bed to the toilet. I wore a nappy.

I remember little of the next two weeks except during the ' better ' interlude. My GP did ring everyday and I was mostly coherent : not always.

Round two was another cricket bat attack. At this point because I had none of the NHS111 symptoms I was not classed as Covid. Round two changed that. The GP warned me to call 999 at the first hint of breathing difficulty , not NHS111.  One evening I felt my chest tighten and I had sharp pains to my heart.

At 10pm I did actually call NHS111. Sometime around 1am I finally was called back by a truly intelligent nurse. By then my chest had eased as had my ' heart pains '. We decided that unless my condition worsened I would be safer and better at home. My GP would have an emergency email to greet her at 08:00 hrs.

My GP called out the mobile paramedics. My ECG was fine, my oxygenation was fine, my BP and temperature were fine except I was obviously very ill. I remained at home.

In my lucid moments I had posted about my condition and symptoms on FB. I documented all the so called mild symptoms of Covid long before the UK government or any other recognised them: brain fog , loss of taste, massive diarrhea, dreadful dreadful fatigue. This was the third week of March.

Slowly I got better and then I had two more waves of attacks, each less awful than the previous but not 'mild' in anyone's book. My GP called me into the closed surgery for my bloods. All my tests and poo tests came back ' normal '. But I was obviously very ill.

At one stage I emailed the doctors with my research on diarrhea Covid. It turns out that 30% of Covid is like mine. The US Gastroenterology already knew. The Chinese already knew. The UK was still saying I had a ' tummy bug '. Then my GPs believed me and I had test after test: never for Covid as that test only works for a short 72 hour window after initial symptoms.

After the fourth bout my GP was a bit fed up with me. She said I had viral fatigue and that was that. I emailed back with BMJ Blog of the Professor of Tropical Medicine in Liverpool: his eight weeks of hell was a carbon copy of mine.

April came and went. I was mostly dreadfully ill. May arrived. It continued.

In mid May I took matters into my own hands. The medical profession these days is test and treat. Tests come back negative ... No need to treat. Actually this works more than 80% of the time. The medical profession these days is poor at analytic thought in a new situation. They look for patterns etc and most don't ' think through the problem '. I don't think they have the time.

I put my symptoms into Google. The waves of attacks, the exploding faeces, the lack of any serious temperature etc, and back came the answer : Crohn's. I knew I didn't have that but the similarity was uncanny.

I was close to cracking it.

The problem was that the virus binds very nicely indeed to receptors in the gut. And it had food! The body responds and the gut gets massively inflamed that inflammation is the carbon copy of Crohn's inflammation. At the end of a wave of attack I slowly got better and then returned to my old high fibre good for you diet and started to exercise. Both were very big mistakes. High fibres etc just cause more inflammation unless the gut has repaired. But that needs four weeks and each attack wave was just seven days.

As for exercise: hmmm all that extra blood flow etc simply exasperated the gut inflammation. Even less ' bad food ' was needed for a wave attack. Body temperature and pulse were crucial. 80bpm preferably 60bpm was needed. Take half a tab of paracetamol to keep the body temperature down. Do everything to protect the gut.

My current diet is not quite ' baby food' but an adult version of mush. High calories but mush: porridge, chocolate puds, eggs etc etc. Virtually no fibre.

I then discovered that Crohn's inflammation flare ups are treated with aspirin derived NSAIDs. So after breakfast I take a low dose tsb of aspirin.

It turns out that taking aspirin was beneficial in more ways than one. I had taken it on and off all through the eight weeks. I was right to have done so. It is the thickening blood caused by Covid that can cause so many additional problems. The doctors now know that. I limped to that conclusion in April.

Aspirin proved a cheap effective life saver.

I never had the pneumonia. At 69 years of age I'm not sure I would have survived that. A third of cases are like mine and gut cases carry on for a long time indeed.

I am recovering. I'm not there yet but hopefully will be so by July. It's been an awful experience.

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