Ejo #156 – The Coronavirus Diaries

DAY 0
Monday, 5th December 2022
David and I treated our friend Kayte to a night at a desert resort yesterday, as a present for her 50th birthday. Sadly we could only stay for one night, but we all had an absolute blast.  And yes, we are amazing friends.  When you visit us in Dubai as many times as Kayte has (five!), we might even do the same for you. 😉

The Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Resort in Ras Al Khaimah

After a leisurely buffet breakfast this morning, Kayte indulged in a relaxing massage at the spa while David and I indulged in a naughty skinny dip in our private pool.  Before we knew it though, the fairy tale was over and the three of us piled into David’s car for the 90 minute drive back to reality.  On the way home my throat started feeling scratchy, which I put down to the dry desert air playing havoc.  But as the day has worn on, my throat has started feeling worse, and I just know that I am coming down with something. 

I’m hoping against hope that I don’t wake up tomorrow with the same terrible flu that’s been spreading around Dubai like wildfire lately.  I had lunch with Zimmy last week and she’s been really sick with the flu for several days, so I’m a little worried.  I really can’t afford any more time off work.  I’ve already used up 14 days of sick leave, and any more time off will be docked at half pay.  Don’t judge me, it’s been a bad year for me.  I had influenza in February which laid me up for nearly two weeks, and I broke my ankle in October, so I’ve been quite the sickie this year. 

Kayte’s flying on to Australia tomorrow morning, but David and I have to wake up at an ungodly hour for work, so the three of us said our goodbyes, and went to bed.  As soon as I lay down, I started trembling uncontrollably, despite my skin feeling hot to the touch.  I shivered with a fever well into the night, until David gave me some paracetamol and ibuprofen and I finally drifted off to sleep. 

DAY 1
Tuesday, 6th December 2022
I woke up feeling OK.  Not great, but not fluey, thank god.  I went to work and napped during both of my breaks.  David and I had an early dinner and I’m getting ready for bed now.  It’s early, only 8pm, but I have another 4am wake up tomorrow and I’m just so tired. 

DAY 2
Wednesday, 7th December 2022
I woke up feeling pretty shit and my nose is super blocked, but I slept like the dead last night.  I think I just have a cold.  It doesn’t feel like the flu, so it looks like Zimmy’s off the hook.  I went to work and felt OK at the beginning, but slowly started to deteriorate later in the morning.  When I returned to the tower after taking a quick nap on my break, my colleague Bradwin took one horrified look at me and told me that I should really [his emphasis] go home.  At that moment, I would have loved nothing more in the whole world than to turn around and go home, but I knew that it would be frowned upon if I took another sick day, so I snapped at him that I was fine, and went back to work.  On my next break though, I realised that I wasn’t fine at all and that I was getting a lot worse.  Maybe I have the flu after all.  I told my manager I wasn’t feeling well and he sent me home without docking me sick leave, which I was really grateful for.  When I got home David made me a hot toddy, and I texted Zimmy to let her know that I was feeling ill and that I must have caught the flu from her.  Which is when she dropped the bomb.  She doesn’t have the flu at all. She has covid.  Uh oh.  

I immediately took a rapid antigen test to see if I also have it, and the test very definitively showed a positive result.  Did I already say uh oh?  David quickly arranged for a home PCR test for us, and the doctor arrived a couple of hours later, sticking his swab eye-wateringly deep into our brains.  Ouch.  We have to wait until tomorrow for the results, but during the evening, I have progressively become worse.  My head feels like it’s full of wet cement, and I feel dizzy, almost like I’m hallucinating.  My eyes are burning.  My nose is dripping, but when I blow it nothing comes out.  My mouth is dry.  My throat is scratchy, and my voice has become raspy.  The glands in my neck are swollen, and I don’t feel good at all.  David isn’t feeling great either, but I think he’s slightly better than me.  I really hope he doesn’t have covid.  I hope I don’t have it either. 

DAY 3
Thursday, 8th December 2022
We got our results this morning and we’re both positive.  I kinda feel like I just lost a global game of lethal tag after nearly three years of dodging this damn virus like a ninja.  Hopefully we don’t die! 

Today my brain feels way too heavy for my head, and my head feels too heavy for my neck, so it’s just kind of swaying around a bit, and it feels difficult to keep it upright.  My ears are completely blocked, so everything sounds muffled.  My eyes feel like they’re about to pop out of my head, and are watering non-stop.  My body feels numb, tingling like it’s entered a weird quantum state; a probability vibrating in place, with some kind of foreign, dirty electricity violently coursing through my veins.  So this is what coronavirus feels like. 

There hasn’t been a lot of movement today.  I’ve been sitting on our balcony looking out and not doing much at all.  The coughing is getting worse, triggered by a dry, itchy throat.  A doctor once told me that coughing makes coughing worse, so I’m trying really hard not to cough and to keep my throat lubricated, as I’m prone to chest infections, having suffered chronic bronchitis since my twenties.  Funnily enough, the pandemic was the first time in years I didn’t have my annual bout of bronchitis.  Masks, they work! 

Feeling like wet shit is coming in waves, like a heavy blanket being lifted and dropped on top of me, over and over again.  I’m really tired despite doing nothing, and all I want to do is lie on the couch.  I made an appointment for us to have a teleconference with a doctor to try and get some antiviral medication to help us feel better, but she told us that we didn’t need it and that we should just treat our symptoms.  Oh well.  I haven’t had much of an appetite, but I craved Chinese hot and sour soup for dinner so David ordered some for us and it really hit the spot.

DAY 4
Friday, 9th December 2022
Today I woke up early to watch the sun rise and get some UVA light in my eyes.  I’m planning on taking plenty of naps during the day so I don’t mind getting up at daybreak.  I wasn’t sleeping well anyway.  David tells me I was moaning all night long.  I plead no contest. 

I still feel weird, at once fuzzy and dense.  When I put my feet up, they prickle with pins and needles.  My head is so fucking blocked, all the way from the back of my throat, into my sinuses and up to my ears and eyes.  I feel light headed and tired.  Lethargic.  I’m not having trouble breathing, but the act of breathing feels laborious.  I’m trying to read a book but finding it difficult to concentrate.  We can’t leave the house, but we’re spending a lot of time outside on our balcony getting lots of natural sunlight and fresh air, and I feel like that must be helping. 

It was midday when I noticed that I have lost my sense of smell.  During a brief phase of feeling well enough to get off the couch, I went through the stack of unopened packages that have been piling up near the front door over the last few days.  I unwrapped a white jasmine reed diffuser that I bought for the bathroom and took a whiff to see how it smelled and… nothing.  I’m quite blocked up so I asked David if can smell it and he can.  A couple of hours later, when we were having our lunch, I realised that I could no longer taste anything either.  It truly is such a strange feeling, to be chewing on something that I am very familiar with the taste of, and not be able to taste it.  My brain keeps trying to fill in the gaps, knowing what steak should taste like, but it’s really not the same.  David confessed to accidentally over-salting the meat, but my taste buds were completely oblivious. 

Hmm, I think I’m hallucinating.  I was looking at some NFTs that I bought the other day and one of them seemed to change size, getting bigger on the screen.  I can’t tell if it’s supposed to do that or if I’m just imagining it.  It might only be 8pm, but I think it’s time for me to go to bed. 

DAY 5
Saturday, 10th December 2022
I’m grateful that I don’t feel any worse today, but I don’t feel any better either.  I still don’t have my senses of smell or taste, but I’m not too worried about it.  I’m trying to be patient, and just hope that they return soon.  This is no ordinary virus and I’m one of the lucky ones so far.  My cough does appear to have settled a little deeper in my chest, which is of some concern.  It’s also changed from a dry cough into a productive one.  That’s a polite way of saying that I’m hacking up phlegm. 

David and I are both still really blocked up.  We have trouble hearing each other at the best of times, but now our conversations sound like a comedy sketch, “Huh?”, “Huhh?”, “What?”, “Huh?”, “Did you say something?”  Despite being sick though, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than with my husband in our beautiful home, locked in and everyone else locked out.  It’s a balmy 26° outside, and we’re chilling on our balcony in the glorious winter sun.  So it’s not all bad. 

My sense of chronology appears to be playing tricks on me.  Time feels slippery, and bouncy.  Things that I remember happening yesterday, apparently happened the day before.  And things I was sure I did only two hours ago, David assures me I actually did yesterday.  It’s very weird, but again, I’m trying not to worry too much about the dreaded “brain fog”, one of the legacy symptoms of covid.  I am in a total fugue state and nothing feels real right now.  I’ll just keep writing it down, and try to make sense of it all later, once the delirium has faded. 

DAY 6
Sunday, 11th December 2022
Today I woke up having turned into a big ol’ ball of phlegm.  Cannot stop coughing up the phlegm.  Cannot stop blowing the phlegm out of my nose. It’s phlegmageddon!!  Last night I had one of the worst headaches of my entire life so I’m grateful that I just have a regular headache this morning.  

I just received an auto-generated clearance letter from the Dubai Health Authority congratulating me on the completion of my mandated isolation, optimistically (and quite absurdly) declaring me asymptomatic and wishing me well in my return to work. Hahaha!

Today’s mood: I lay on the couch at 11.30am, knocked back the cough medicine that David slipped me, and passed out for the next five hours.  I just slept the day away, and still woke up feeling like a zombie.  David’s getting better every day, so I’m hoping tomorrow is the day I start feeling better too.

DAY 7
Monday, 12th December 2022
I did wake up feeling better today, for the first time since getting on the coronavirus rollercoaster.  The phlegm party is over, no more phlegm.  I’ve slept 13 out of the last 19 hours, so I’m well rested.  But I still have no energy.  I do one simple task and then flop for the next two hours.  This is no fun. 

This morning, while flossing my teeth, I was abruptly king-hit in the schnozz by the overwhelming fragrance of jasmine.  Just like that, outta nowhere.  I ran over to the reed diffuser and took a deep sniff of it, but couldn’t smell anything.  So bizarre.  I tried again, but nope, nada.  Had I imagined it?  I didn’t think so; the smell had been so very intense.  A few minutes later, a powerful punch of jasmine once again violated my nose.  I am starting to smell again.  Yay!!!  Taste is still nowhere to be seen, but one of my senses returning to life, albeit intermittently, gives me hope that the other will also soon reawaken. 

DAY 8
Tuesday, 13th December 2022
Overall, I’m feeling better today.  But the phlegm is back.  Where has it been?  Why did it return?  What adventures has it been on?  I’ll never know, but I do know that it’s all up in my shit.  And that it’s brought a friend back with it.  Hello again, sore throat.  My sense of smell is playing more games with me too.  While I was preparing breakfast, the stench of pig shit suddenly filled my nostrils.  It was only fleeting, but as you can imagine it was pretty fucking unsettling.  My sister has warned me of the horrors of parosmia, a common symptom of covid where normal everyday smells are interpreted by the brain as unpleasant, disgusting and even putrid.  Nice, right?  Also, I’m smelling the jasmine all the time now and I’m not even sure I like it. And why does the whole apartment smell of it? Is that the parosmia, or did I just buy a terrible bathroom fragrance? 

I feel gross today.  Dirty almost, as if there’s something toxic and metallic oozing out of the pores of my skin.  My cough has definitely worsened too. When I write about these symptoms, it’s not as black and white as oh, I have a cough.  Or oh, my throat is sore.  All of it is experienced through a thick veil of severe lethargy and fatigue.  Just sitting down and staring into space feels exhausting.  Every bout of coughing results in exhaustion.  Everything is an effort.  That’s what makes this so crap.  The good news is that David is almost completely better. 

DAY 9
Wednesday, 14th December 2022
I feel much, much better this morning so I think I’ll be fine to go back to work in a couple of days.  Today was the first time the veil of darkness hasn’t engulfed me.  I was also able to taste my food today, and while my appetite still isn’t what it used to be, it tasted really good (and was, of course, perfectly seasoned).  I am still coughing, and the cough has become raspy and wheezy, rattling in my chest, but apart from that I mostly feel OK.  Hey kids, this might be the beginning of the end of covid for me.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be no long-term health issues, and that I recover fully. 

DAY 10
Thursday, 15th December 2022
In a step backwards from yesterday’s progress, I once again feel the veil of fuzziness and lethargy enveloping me like a dark shroud.  What a palaver.  I just had another PCR test.  The person administering the test didn’t want to come inside (fair call, our place is a den of viral contagion) and so I had to submit my nostrils to being swabbed outside, in the corridor.  Oh, the humanity.  I’ll report the result as soon as I get it. 

I’m still being hoofed in the face every time I go to the bathroom.  The smell of jasmine is oppressively cloying and sickly to my newly sensitive sense of smell.  And ever since yesterday, I’ve had a funny taste in my mouth.  Not quite metallic, a little bit plasticky.  I imagine this is what the white jasmine oil would taste like if I drank it. Every damn day, it’s something new with this virus.  And I don’t like it at all. 

I got the test result back at 1.21pm.  Negative. 

PROLOGUE
More than two weeks after testing negative to covid I am almost back to normal.  I did feel tired in the days after returning to work, but not in a covid way, just in a regular shift work kind of way.  I was very gentle with myself and went to bed early every night, waking up early to watch the sunrise and get my hormones back in balance.  There was only one day, about a week ago when I experienced what felt like a relapse.  The cloak of exhaustion absolutely flattened me and I could barely move all day.  It was as though the production of energy in my body had simply shut down.  I was digging deep to find the strength to just get up off the couch, and there was nothing there.  I was empty.  I do think that this episode was triggered by going back to shift work so soon after being sick, but thank goodness it only lasted one day and since then, I’ve been fine. 

One symptom that has lingered, as feared, is this terrible, hacking cough.  I’ve been diagnosed with acute bronchitis, and have just finished a course of antibiotics which has improved it a little bit, but it’s still pretty bad.  Talking exacerbates it, but unfortunately my job requires me to talk to pilots all day long.  That’s what I do.  And so the worst coughing spells are at work.  It’s a horrible, irritatingly dry cough and it’s extraordinarily annoying – for me, and for the people around me.  My colleagues are being so lovely about it, expressing concern and offering me cups of tea and honey to soothe my throat.  But nothing seems to be helping.  I was told by a doctor, and a nurse, that my cough will probably last a couple of months.  Sad face. 

Oh yeah, and it turns out that the jasmine reed diffuser really was a dud. 

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