Friday, April 19, 2024

‘I Thought Covid Wasn’t Really a ‘Thing’ Anymore. Now I Have Long Covid’ One Woman’s Regret & Her Warning to Others

In the early days of hearing about the condition, many of us furiously Googled ‘How to not get Long Covid’. When we were exposed to Covid, we stayed home. When we caught it, we took it seriously, rested, quarantined. But now that Covid has become more of just a part of life and restrictions have lifted, have we forgotten about Long Covid? Reader Bianca says she got complacent, got caught up in the pressure of work and life to ‘push through’ and now, has paid the price…

Bianca was determined to stay well.

It was the busiest time of year in her line of work as an accountant, and she was feeling the pressure. There was also only a couple of weeks until her daughter’s sixth birthday and she had begun setting aside time to construct the elaborate Frozen cake her she had requested for her party.

Mindful that getting a cold would put a real spanner in the works, Bianca had started driving to work instead of catching public transport and was wearing a mask when she went to crowded places, like the supermarket or her daughter’s favourite trampoline park. She hoped it might lessen her chances of picking something up.

But then, she woke up on Monday morning with a headache, sore glands and feeling unreasonably tired. Her mind was immediately doing mental gymnastics, working out what this might mean and how inconvenienced other people were going to be.

“My first thought wasn’t about how I felt, but how this was going to affect my work, and potentially the birthday party,” says Bianca. “It felt like a cold. It didn’t feel great, but I knew I could still work so I called my boss and we agreed I’d work from home so I didn’t infect anyone else. I didn’t take it as a sick day. I didn’t suggest it and neither did he – I felt like I had to work, we were so busy.”

Instead of taking the day off to recoup, Bianca worked 12 hours from her bed. Her husband did the school run, cooked all the meals – and, eventually made Bianca close her laptop.

“He takes over at this time of year and runs the household so I can work long hours, so that wasn’t unusual, but, it was unusual for me to be working whilst being sick,” says Bianca.

The next morning she still wasn’t feeling great, but she pushed through. And again on Wednesday.

“I figured it was just a cold that was taking a while to go because I was working hard,” she says.

Then, on the Thursday, she was still feeling the same (if anything, maybe a bit worse!), but her daughter woke up with a raging sore throat and a temperature.

“My husband did a Covid test on her,” says Bianca. “It immediately came up positive. Weirdly, I never thought of testing myself because it was just a cold. I’d had Covid years earlier, and it was so different. Even when she tested positive, I thought I had something different.”

But, “out of an abundance of caution” Bianca did a test too. It was positive.

“I should have told my boss that I was taking the day off, and taken it easy – maybe put on some movies and spend the day on the couch with my daughter, but instead I kept working and my husband took care of our girl,” says Bianca.

Her daughter’s birthday party was still more than a week away, so they thought it would be possible to go ahead, and Bianca was sure she’d be ready to go back to work the next week.

“I figured I just had to get through Thursday and Friday and then I’d take the weekend to rest,” she says.

But, instead, her husband ended up calling an ambulance on the Saturday night for her.

“My chest had started feeling a bit heavy on the Thursday – but, like I said, I only had another day to go, so I tried to keep it out of my mind, knowing I could fully rest in a couple of days,” she says.

“But then it got progressively worse, until it felt like I couldn’t breathe.”

Bianca’s husband woke their neighbours after Bianca left in an ambulance, and one of them slept on the couch to keep an eye on their daughter.

The doctor told Bianca she had pneumonia, on top of Covid.

“I had to take the next week off work,” says Bianca. “And I missed being at my daughter’s birthday party. I felt terrible.”

The following week, Bianca went back to work for a couple of days, but had to leave early.

“I went back to my doctor to get a certificate,” she says. “I felt so guilty, like I was letting down everyone in my life, but I also knew I couldn’t work. I felt horrible. My doctor gave me a certificate for two weeks and said I might need more time after that.”

Bianca says her colleagues and boss were still emailing and calling, and suggesting she join in on Zoom meetings.

“I had to draw a line in the sand and say I couldn’t do any work for at least the next few days,” she says. “In the end, I took two weeks off. Shaking pneumonia was really difficult and I realised I needed to listen to the doctors, and to my body.”

Gradually she returned to work – where everyone seemed to expect she’d be feeling ‘refreshed’ from having time off. In fact, Bianca was feeling the opposite.

“I was exhausted, constantly,” she says. “By that stage my husband and I would normally have switched back to sharing the load, but he was still doing the school run, and all the cooking and cleaning. I’d come home and need to go to bed. Sometimes he’d have to wake me for dinner. Some nights he wouldn’t, and I’d sleep right through to seven the next morning.”

Bianca knew things weren’t right, but again, she put it down to having Covid and pneumonia and that it would take a while to recover. Her husband gently urged her to see her doctor – maybe she was low on iron too? Maybe there was something she could take.

Thankfully, she has a wonderful doctor who asked the right questions.

“I told her about what had been happening and she said, ‘I think we need to start exploring the possibility that you have Long Covid,’” says Bianca. “I was shocked.”

“I’d read a couple of articles about Long Covid and I hadn’t thought about those because they seemed so different. I didn’t have heart issues, or brain fog, or chest trouble, which I thought were signs of Long Covid.”

Also, says Bianca, she thought things were a lot different around Covid now.

“There’s rarely a news story about Covid anymore,” she says. “I never hear about Long Covid anymore. There are no restrictions on isolating or having to take time off. If someone turns up at work with a cough or cold, they aren’t immediately sent home anymore. If you’re sick, it’s often expected that you’ll still be ‘on the tools’ at home. Because of that, I thought Covid wasn’t as potent anymore – that we didn’t need to worry as much. I was so wrong.”

Bianca says the first time around that she had Covid, she was careful. She could work from home, but she didn’t. Back then you had to quarantine for 10 days, so that’s exactly what she did – and she didn’t work a day of it. It was during a lockdown, so she was at home, resting (as much as is possible with a young child) while she got over it.

“I had a high fever, body aches – the works, with the first round,” says Bianca. “This time around it really felt like a regular cold, but with a lot of fatigue. I put that down to general stress. Now, of course I have so much regret.”

Bianca is on the – potentially quite long – road to recovery. She’s had to give up her job for now and while she’s trying to not think too far ahead, she’s wondering if she should change jobs.

“That’s why I wanted to be anonymous for this story,” says Bianca. “Not because I’m embarrassed or anything – I really want to tell this story! But, because I don’t know if my workplace is the same as everyone else’s now – if no one really cares about your health and wellbeing?? I definitely let it happen, but I felt so much pressure from my workplace to just ‘push through’ my sickness that it has ended up completely destroying my health. I hope other workplaces are different, and I might find a new place when I’m back on my feet.”

Bianca says it’s enormously frustrating at the moment. Her recovery certainly isn’t linear – some days she is doing better and can do more tasks (like laundry, cleaning, preparing meals, playing with her child), but other days, the idea of having a shower or walking to the mailbox are too exhausting.

Her hope is that anyone reading this who is unwell, will stop and pause.

“Is that piece of work really that important that you should do it instead of looking after your health?” she says. “I wish I’d listened to my body – my life wouldn’t be on hold now if I had of just stopped when it needed me to.”

Getting WILD at the QT Auckland: Champagne Problems & Fried Chicken in Bed – Finally Getting to Live Out the Rock Star Fantasy on...

Kelly Bertrand and her fiancé have a wild night at the QT Auckland and live out some true rock star fantasies (and if you're...

“It’s What I’ve Always Dreamed Of” – Football Fern Hannah Wilkinson on Progress, Equality & the ‘Bittersweet’ Comedown of the World Cup

She's New Zealand football's golden girl, with her generation-inspiring goal in the opening World Cup match against Norway sending the nation into raptures. But...

Resume Values Vs Eulogy Values: Where Does Your Self-Worth Come From, If It Doesn’t Come From Your Job?

Approaching the midlife point, it can start to be a big question: what does it mean to live a life your proud of? A...

Can You Eat Something at the Supermarket Before You Pay For It? Or is It Breaking the Rules? We Get a Definitive Answer…

Is it ever okay to eat something at the supermarket before you pay for it? Are you disrupting some sort of social code of...