Rita’s husband almost didn’t bother going to get a Covid test when he started having a few cold-like symptoms. They were so mild, he wondered if he was just a bit run down.
But the next day, he still had a bit of a sore throat and was a little congested, so he drove to the local testing station. He and Rita hunkered down while he awaited results and tried to isolate from each other within the house as much as best they could, just in case.
Around 48 hours later, he got a phone call – it was Covid-19.
It had just been announced that in a couple of days the settings would be changing and it would be up to individuals to get in touch with their close contacts, but they decided not to wait and let people they’d been in contact with know immediately. That weekend they’d just seen her parents and caught up with friends.
The next morning Rita woke up in the spare room with a scratchy throat and a congested nose – “Damn it!” she thought – but she had expected she would get it too, it seemed inevitable. But thankfully, her husband hadn’t seemed to have had a bad run of it – his symptoms were like a slightly nastier than normal cold, and his main complaint was feeling very fatigued. She hoped she’d follow a similar path. Sure that her symptoms were also Covid, she went to the local testing station.
Luckily, Rita and her husband had thought about what they’d do in this situation – they had a well-stocked freezer and a kit in the bathroom with throat lozengers, Panadol, Nurofen and a thermometer.
But, says Rita, there’s a lot she didn’t think of.
“So,” she says. “At the start of the Omicron outbreak we followed the advice and made sure we had medical supplies, plus a few extra meals in the freezer. We talked to my parents, who live nearby, about picking up supplies for each other if needed, and we talked to a couple of friends too so we had options.”
But what Rita hadn’t counted on was that her support system was made up of people who they had seen while her husband had been infectious. So they were now all in isolation too.
“I mean, it’s fine, food-wise, we can just order Uber Eats and get food delivered,” she says, “but it’s bloody annoying that we can’t get supermarket food because delivery slots are always full – I guess people do that for convenience so they don’t have to go out, but for some of us, who really need it, we can’t get a delivery.”
“But our main issue was the dog – we had three friends who were going to come walk her, while we can’t, but they’re all isolating too!”
That’s why Rita made the decision to post up on her Facebook page that she and her husband had Covid and asked for help walking the dog – and if anyone could pick up a click-and-collect order from the supermarket. They were already out of milk and low on fresh fruit and veges.
Thankfully there were more than enough volunteers. “I guess that’s the one good thing about getting Covid early on in this big wave, there’s less people isolating right now,” she says. But, she was also shocked to receive negative comments, which is why she has asked to not have her last name included in this story.
“These are people I know!” she says. One was saying she should just go out and do it herself because her symptoms were and would just be mild, so “who cares”. Another asked if he could come over and catch it because he wants to get it over and done with. And another told her it was her own fault because she got vaccinated. “That one really made me go, what?” For the record, Rita has had two doses and was due for her booster this week. Her husband has had all three jabs.
Then, late that night, things took a turn for the worse and Rita woke up achy, drenched in sweat with a high temperature.
“It was awful,” she says. “Everything hurt, my temperature was around 40 degrees, my throat was like sandpaper, and it felt like my eyeballs were melting. I had the proper flu about five years ago, and it’s that bad – probably worse.”
Thankfully Rita was able to be treated at home, keeping her temperature down with regular doses of paracetamol and cold flannels on her forehead. Her husband – who was very concerned – sought advice from Healthline.
At one stage, feeling almost delirious, she went on Facebook and ranted at the people who called it mild or wanted to catch it. “It’s like the worst flu I’ve ever had, you idiots,” she wrote. “You don’t want to catch it, believe me. You might be lucky like my husband and just lose your energy, or you might get it like me – or even worse. I felt terrible and I didn’t even need to be in hospital.”
A few days on, Rita now feels over the worst of it, but is still very fatigued, achy and definitely isn’t up to getting out of bed. Her husband is still also very fatigued. “He thought he was doing better this morning and did some vacuuming and stuff, but now is back in bed too, exhausted!” she says.
One thing that she’d read was good to have on hand, was iceblocks, which she didn’t do, but has been living off the last few days. She hasn’t had much of an appetite, but the iceblocks – or cold smoothies her husband has been making her – have gone down a treat. He says he’s sick to death of Uber Eats.
Luckily her parents have not shown any symptoms so far, but two friends have since tested positive.
Now, they’re focusing on getting through the rest of their time recuperating, and the isolation time afterwards. But after that, Rita says one of the first things she’ll do when she’s allowed out of the house is a letter drop around her street with her cell-phone number and a Facebook group she’s started, so that if anyone else is isolating, or has Covid, they’ll have someone to call on if their dog needs walking, or they need a click and collect order picked up.
Her advice about coping with Covid now is simple – do make a plan, have well-stocked medical supplies, have extra meals in your freezer, buy iceblocks, and have a wider pool of people to call on than just the friends and family you’d expect, just in case they’re also having to isolate.
“I hadn’t thought about the fact that the people who would normally help out when we needed it would also be the people we saw while infectious – of course that would be the case!” she says. “You need a wider pool!”
She says talking to neighbours now is wise, because you may lose that opportunity to go over and introduce yourself, exchange numbers and make a plan to help each other.
“I wish we’d done that, but we only thought about if it was just us isolating,” she says. “But Covid is spreading so quickly, you’re no longer an isolated case if you get it.”
Over the coming days and weeks, we’ll be adding some toolkits here on Capsule, with more useful information about what to do to be prepared, how to look after yourself and others around you, and how to pass the time and keep yourself (and the kids!) sane if you’re a close contact and need to go into isolation.
If you’ve experienced Covid, or have tips of your own, please do reach out and share them (you can be totally anonymous!) by emailing [email protected].