Positive: My Covid symptoms were far from mild

This month NICOLA DEPUIS tested positive for Covid-19. She says the suggestion that it’s ‘mild’ and like a ‘slight cold’ is wrong, given her own experience of the virus, which she shares here
Positive: My Covid symptoms were far from mild

A woman performing an antigen test at home. Picture: Stock

IT’S mild, just like a slight cold, they said. Sure, you’ve had the booster, you’ll be grand, they said. Then why, oh why, do I still feel like I’ve been beaten up?

At the time of writing this, it was 11 days since my first Covid-19 positive antigen test; my entire head feels inflamed, my chest hurts and I’m still spitting blood. Not coughing blood thankfully, but spitting blood and foamy white mucous into my sink every morning and evening. I’ve taken to carrying a glass-jar-turned-spittoon around the apartment with me to capture all the excess saliva I now possess. Charming, I know.

I don’t want to scare people by writing this. There’s enough fear to contend with at present. But, my experience of Omicron, if that’s indeed what I have, was quite a surprise to me after reading numerous upbeat accounts from media worldwide telling us how mild this variant is. It’s true, some people are thankfully experiencing very mild symptoms. And also, I have no way of telling whether I have Omicron or Delta.

At one stage, the Delta variant was seen as so transmissible that head of University Hospital Limerick’s ICU department, Dr Catherine Motherway, believed everyone would eventually get it. Now, outside of the hospitals where data shows the majority of Ireland’s sickest patients have the Delta variant, Delta seems but a distant dream and the World Health Organisation is forecasting ‘that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next six to eight weeks’.

So, chances are you may get it, and if you do, like me, you may have symptoms that are far from mild.

Like many, I had a quiet Christmas. I have a few close family members with serious underlying conditions, so I’m careful to test myself and take necessary precautions before I see them.

Nicola Depuis.
Nicola Depuis.

I had both vaccines, the booster (ten days before my symptoms showed), and the flu vaccine. As I had the swine flu ten years earlier and developed cough-variant asthma in my thirties, I’ve been pretty nervous about catching any of the Covid variants. What I did know from having swine flu was that it really left its mark, and years later I would wonder if it was, in some way, responsible for the serious bout of depression I had in my thirties, as well as the onset of cough-variant asthma.

It started on January 1 with intense lower back pain. I’d had issues with my lower back over the years, so I thought it was just a flare-up. But then my fever escalated... 38.5... 38.8... 39.3. 

My whole body felt on fire, my entire head and face ached, and the pain in my lower back and thighs was so powerful, it kept me awake all night.

The antigen tests that I had been taking regularly started showing positive. That was a surreal moment; like I had been watching the entire Covid-19 tragedy play out on Netflix and now here it was, on the other side of the screen.

I contacted my GP to let them know, but as I had no transport to a PCR test centre, the advice was that there was no point in getting the test as I was clearly symptomatic and had numerous positive antigen tests.

My asthma cough, clearly exacerbated by Covid, became so reactive I couldn’t talk or move without coughing painfully. I doubled my preventative and relief inhalers to twice a day each.

Thankfully, my GP also prescribed a course of oral steroids for four days, and the cough has largely receded.

There have been moments since the symptoms started when I felt fully restored, like I had been bestowed with a new lease of life. Imbued with a champion’s sense of having beaten this dreaded lurgy, I rang family members to tell them the joyful news, only to find myself back in bed two hours later with a burning chest, and all my energy depleted.

On day seven I was free from the shackles of self-isolation. Woohoo! The cold, crisp air beckoned as I made plans from bed of all the things I was going to do once I could leave the apartment again. However, this was not to be as my body decided to inflict an early and agonising menstrual period on me. I don’t think we ever talk enough about how difficult it is dealing with an illness and a painful period at the same time. Maybe my system was too weak from fighting Covid to deal with the period pain, or maybe the painful period brought back my Covid symptoms en masse?

Whatever it was, dealing with them both has floored me. 

I wonder now how I would feel now if I had’t received the booster. My partner never received hers and still can’t taste or smell anything. She believes there’s some positives to that, though... especially when she sees my blood-spattered spittoon.

So, for me, it wasn’t mild, like a slight cold. It was and continues to be much more debilitating. But I’m grateful I had the booster as it may have saved me from the serious illness that has already taken 5,952 lives in Ireland.

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