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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

My Covid diary

Apart from the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, Covid-19 is just a mild illness, isn’t it? Think again. JUDITH GRANT, who was to have presented at this year’s Safeguard conference, outlines her personal experience.


Spent the afternoon with 88,000 others at Twickenham enjoying a great game of rugby (England v Wales; England won, 33-30.) Yesterday I texted my friend to say I’d get a taxi home after the game rather than stay at hers that evening as originally planned. I felt tired but assumed that was because of a really busy week at work.


Wake up with a terrible earache, a fever and a cough so stay in bed. Speak to my boss the next day when I called in sick, who asks if I’d been in contact with anyone who has been to Italy or China, as my symptoms sound very like Coronavirus. I haven’t, so I dismiss the idea and assume I just have an ear infection. Self-isolate just in case.


I now also have a sore throat and pus-filled spots on my tonsils, and I feel wheezy. Have a phone consultation with a GP who suspects Coronavirus and tells me to take the recommended precautions.

I live on my own so the self-isolation part is straightforward. I’ve experienced times of isolation before. In my early 20s I was beset by chronic pain from leg injuries. I ended up having six leg surgeries, the final two restoring my ability to walk. After each operation I was fortunate that I could go and stay with my parents for a month or so and recover. Since then my mission has been to pay back that good fortune through my work in wellbeing. With Coronavirus, however this is full-on isolation.


I start to feel better and have a video call with a few friends. We celebrate with a couple of glasses of wine.


Log back into my work laptop ready to get back to it. I’ve really struggled with the two weeks off as I feel guilty letting the team down at such a critical time and useless not being able to help. I’ve spent the last two weeks obsessing about work and watching all the Coronavirus briefings, so I’m able to get straight back into work.

I answer a few emails and take a phone call, but after two hours I’ve sweated through my clothes and I’m burning up again. Lie down for the rest of the day.


Feel even worse than the first week of symptoms, with the addition of a terrible headache. Speak to my GP via video call and she tells me she’s seen this in other fit and healthy patients like me. Day 15 is seen as the critical day. If you’re not better by this point you may need hospital or be facing a longer recovery.


These symptoms have now lasted two weeks, worse than the first two weeks. It’s been scary at times because of the shortness of breath, which was worse at night. I’ve now accepted I won’t be making a quick return to work and I’ve stopped watching all the Coronavirus news on TV. (Instead, I’ve binge-watched the entire Downton Abbey series plus the film!)


The spots on my tonsils have disappeared. Assume this is a sign I’m on the mend. But tonight I feel my airways tighten up and I struggle to breathe. I’d had wheezy nights but not this bad. At about one in the morning I dial the NHS helpline and speak to a nice lady, who triages me on to her manager after some initial questions. He asks more questions and says I need to speak to the on-call doctor. He warns it would be up to a six-hour wait for a call back.

Wheeze, cough and doze my way through to 6am when the doctor phones. My breathing rate is high but not high enough for hospital admission. He says I’m better off at home, and as I’m able to talk lucidly I’m not in acute danger. I sense he’s talked to lots of people feeling as I do. Go back to bed and finally manage to sleep from exhaustion.


The cough has finally gone but I just don’t feel better. I’ve now been off work for four weeks. I’ve seen coverage of really sick patients in hospital or people with mild symptoms who felt fine after a week or so, so I’m feeling quite alone in my experience of the virus. Speaking to my GP periodically has been helpful as she reassured me that my reaction to the virus is not all that unusual and for some people the recovery can be long, whether or not they’ve been to hospital.

The fatigue has been terrible. I’ve had illnesses and times when I’ve felt exhausted, but this is something else, like permanent jet lag. One day I decided I really needed to clean my bathroom. No one else was going to do it and it was probably covered in Coronavirus germs. I spent half an hour giving it a good clean but when I finished I thought I was going to be sick and had to spend the rest of the day lying down.

When I changed the sheets on my bed I had to have a sit down between each sheet and pillowcase change. By the end I was sweating like I’d had a workout.

Another day I thought I’d reorganise a few books on a couple of shelves but it took me three mornings of attempts to finish the task as I couldn’t do more than half an hour without hitting the energy wall.

My energy levels ebb and flow throughout the day and vary from day to day. On days I’ve had more energy I’ve batch-cooked soup or other dishes so I had meals for the days I couldn’t cook. I’ve managed to get a food delivery every ten days, so I’ve not needed anyone to bring me anything (other than paracetamol).


At the end of week seven of my illness I’m finally starting to build up my strength. I have a home gym but haven’t been able to use much of it yet. This has been the worst thing for me, exercise is my stress release and I just can’t do much yet. I’ve been doing a low resistance cycle on my stationary bike, slowly building up the time, and I’ve done some Pilates every day.

On Monday I left my flat for the first time in six weeks and managed a ten-minute walk. I felt exhausted when I got home and pretty much slept for the rest of the day. But it’s progress. I was really scared about leaving my flat as the world has changed since I last left it, so I’m pleased to have got over the psychological hurdle.

The GP has signed me off work until early May. My team at work have been fantastic at keeping in touch. They assure me that they only want me back when I’m well again, so the pressure for me to return comes from me alone!

I have not felt too lonely during my isolation. I’m used to talking to lots of people at work every day so I miss the human interaction, but I’ve lived on my own for a long time so isolation doesn’t bother me. My fantastic family and friends have been in touch daily to make sure I’m OK, and I’ve had lovely messages from my work network as well.

I have a nice flat with a lovely view and an outdoor terrace. I like gardening so being able to potter about on my terrace and look after the flowers has kept my spirits up. I’ve also read a lot of books and the days where I didn’t feel up to reading I’ve listened to books through Audible. Having Michelle Obama read me her autobiography was very soothing!

I’ve almost managed to stop feeling guilty for being ill and not being at work. I’ve been focusing my energy on getting well again.


Not doing too well. I sound like Darth Vader. I can’t say two words without having to gasp for air. I also have chest pains. I’m sent for some tests at a local community health centre, who fear a blood clot in my lungs so they send me straight to A&E. If anyone needs some motivation to wear a mask or maintain social distancing, remember this is what this awful virus can do to someone who was very fit and healthy. Had lots of tests in A&E. Thankfully didn’t need admitting to hospital and my lungs and heart seem OK. I can continue to keep fighting it at home. Thanks NHS.

20 MAY

My breathing has pretty much returned to normal. As expected I didn’t test positive for Coronavirus (nine weeks ago I would have) but the blood tests in A&E show my body is still battling away against its lingering after-effects. Some early research on Coronavirus suggests that for some people their immune systems continue to fight the virus long after it has left their system. Maybe this is what is happening to me.

As I enter week 10 of my illness I still consistently have the Covid cough, swollen tonsils and exhaustion, though I think these are lessening. In the last week I’ve had days where I’ve felt OK, and other days with terrible stomach, neck and ear pains, coughing fits and headaches. Each day is a case of waking up and seeing what’s on the Covid menu for the day, with no obvious pattern. Overall my trajectory is one of improvement (I hope, given I’ve been here twice before).

I had a lovely day on Saturday. I didn’t feel as bad and did 10 minutes on my exercise bike and five hours on my sun lounger. Felt like I was on holiday! Sunday I slept. I’m keeping positive and structure my days so I can make the most of the ebb and flow of my energy levels. It’s a glacial recovery. But I’m not alone, more stories like mine are emerging in the media.


Tried to return to work this week after 12 weeks off with what’s now been termed “the long Covid tail” or “Post Covid Syndrome” where I’ve been experiencing the ongoing symptoms of my body’s reaction to Covid-19. It was going well. I managed a decent workout at the weekend on my cross trainer and had upped my weights. I was feeling good.

I did a half day at work on Monday and basically slept until Tuesday and my next half day. I began to feel unwell. By Wednesday my throat was a raging inferno. I ended up at A&E. A quick look (as they are not currently allowed to have a proper look under NHS safety guidance) identified an abscess, tonsil stones, tonsillitis and a fever! I’m now on antibiotics and painkillers to try and calm the infection down and have to wait until the end of June to get into an Ear Nose and Throat clinic. I have never had any of these ailments before but the GP in A&E said they were seeing patients with all sorts of random issues in the tail of the virus.

You really do not want to catch this virus. As lockdown continues to ease, remember the virus is here to stay until a vaccine is developed. So please be extra careful to avoid spreading it.


I have had a terrifying week. In week 14 post-Covid I’ve been in A&E twice and one of those was a 999 call. I went to A&E on Wednesday with breathing issues and a high fever from the tonsil infection and was given a lot of medication. It was scary as I felt like I was being strangled. There was pressure all down my airway and talking was a challenge. They did blood tests, an x-ray on my lungs and an ECG to check my heart.

On Thursday I thought I was having a stroke and was going to die. It started off with a pins and needles sensation in my hands but that became a stabbing nerve pain down my arms until my hands started to go numb. My heart rate was fluctuating from 60 to 180 BPM at rest on my watch. I was rushed to A&E where they monitored me for hours as my heart continued to race at 120. I hadn’t had a stroke or a heart attack and they put the reaction down to an adverse reaction to one of the strong antibiotics. They ran and re-ran lots of tests on Thursday and Friday and thankfully no permanent damage has been done.


I visited the Ear Nose and Throat department and had a camera put up my nose and down my throat. A gross experience but also quite cool to see my tonsils on a TV screen. They seem to have calmed down now. I’ve been taken off the antibiotics and now on acid-reflux medication for my stomach. I am still getting an intermittent fever so they only just let me in the hospital.


GP appointment. I’m signed off work for two more weeks. Reason given on sick note: “Ongoing CV19 recovery and severe throat infection”. I still have bad fatigue, a croaky “Covid” voice, brain fog, occasional fever and random nerve pains in my legs and arms.

GP has referred me to a new clinic being set up at my local hospital for “Post Covid” recovery. I’m hopeful they may be able to help me feel better so I can go back to work and life, but at best they can study me and the many others experiencing this long Covid tail, and perhaps we can help the many more people globally who will go through what we are going through. Scientists say 1 in 10 people will experience Coronavirus as I have.

People need to be aware of the long-term consequence of Covid. The economic impact of people unable to work because of post-Covid syndrome will be significant, as will how workplaces need to support their employees who may have ongoing health issues. The mental health impact is immense. This is not over yet for any of us.


Lockdown eases slightly and I get a haircut! But most excitingly I am finally able to go to my parents’ house. After not seeing them for months I am hopeful that some love and looking after will be the best medicine for me.

Dr Judith Grant is director of health and wellbeing with Mace Group in the United Kingdom. She was to have been a keynote speaker at the 2020 Safeguard National Health & Safety Conference. This is an edited version of posts she made to social media, reproduced with kind permission.

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