I went skiing to La Villa in the Dolomites on March 7 and was told the Government was saying it was still safe. My thoughts were that it might be safer to be in the mountain air than on the Underground — plus I couldn’t get my money back on the holiday, so I decided to go. We had two great ski days — then on Monday afternoon there were rumours they were going to close the Dolomites. By the evening we were told we’d be flying home by Wednesday. On Tuesday lunchtime we were given 30 minutes to pack up and get a rescue flight out of Verona that evening. I then decided to self-isolate to ensure I didn’t infect anyone. As my symptoms started on Thursday, I’m guessing I got it as soon as I arrived in Italy.
It’s not terrible, but not great. The frightening part is the unknown: what to expect, whether the symptoms are normal, when to ask for help and when to just push on through. With a cold or a flu you know that you’ll have a horrid few days, but with this you think you’re better and then it comes and hits you again for the worse.
However I don’t want people to be scared. It’s not the worst illness I’ve had — I’ve had worse flu. It’s the unpredictability that is scary and the shortness of breath. I now sympathise greatly with asthma sufferers. This is my diary of the experience.
Friday March 13
First signs were shortness of breath, even walking into the kitchen is making me breathless. Am constantly having to clear my throat.
Generally not feeling 100 per cent, and feel slightly nauseous. No sneezing, coughing or a temperature, but skin feeling very hot, especially my front and back. Nose running a bit due to hot head. Doesn’t feel like a cold.
Saturday March 14
Skin is now very hot on my front and back, as well as head and neck, but thermometer only says 36.8, so I haven’t got a temperature. Starting to feel strange and faint. Can’t focus very well, but maybe I’m panicking, need to calm myself down as not helping myself. By afternoon I am coughing. Not a mucus cough — just an irritable constant one. Eyes are hot and I’m finding it hard to watch TV.
Sunday March 15
Coughed all night but feeling more sprightly this morning. However this turns out to be short-lived. Have a bad patch over lunch, and am struggling to breathe. Feeling panicked, I call 111. Trying to take deep breaths and calm down but am feeling faint. When someone answers they are very efficient. They realise I am struggling, so transfer me to speak to the next level up. This person goes through my symptoms and suspects I have Covid-19 and asks if I wanted to come in for an emergency assessment.
I’m too weak to drive and I live on my own and don’t want to infect a cab driver, so they suggest a paramedic calls me back to help over the phone. A doctor calls me back, assesses me again and says it’s likely I have the virus. She’s utterly brilliant, calming me down, telling me to take paracetamol and drink lots of water, and going through breathing exercises. Says I am hyperventilating, so I need to control my breathing.
She also suggests some breathing apps which really help. She warns me it will get worse before it gets better. Went to bed as eyes were hot, and I couldn’t watch TV or read a book.
Monday March 16
Slept really well, no coughing till I wake up. Chest is feeling less tight, but my breathing is still laboured. I’m totally exhausted — I can hardly get out of bed. Skin is less hot to touch — I might actually need the heating on! Still feeling odd, body is clearly trying to get rid of something: my heart and blood feel like they’re pumping faster than normal. I have very dry lips and am very thirsty. No energy to text people. Start to feel better, but chest feels bad again in the evening. My neighbour kindly goes to get more paracetamol. I’m counting down the hours when I can take it again, it really helps.
Tuesday March 17
Wake up feeling better. I even manage some chores and go into garden. Things are tasting metallic. I think food is off — but it isn’t. By afternoon, I feel like I did on Sunday: terrible. Have to go to sleep. Feels like poison is pumping round my veins and my heart is beating a lot. My chest doesn’t feel so bad, but face is now burning — so much so that it wakes me up. Almost ring 111 again as am starting to panic something is wrong with my heart — but I used the breathing techniques and calm down. When is this going to be over? Really tired of it all now. Start playing online Scrabble with my mum, which helps me to focus on something other than how ill I’m feeling. Watching TV isn’t easy as sound hurts and my eyes are still hot.
Wednesday March 18
Coughed again through the night and wake up exhausted. Morning is a write-off. By the afternoon, I’m feeling perkier but my skin is really starting to itch, as well as feel hot. Whatever next?! Chest is feeling lighter. It’s so different to a cold or a chest infection as with that you cough up phlegm. Not sure where the stuff in my chest is going — is it just vanishing?!
Definitely feeling better and feel like I can speak to people. A friend comes over to drop off a pie and talks to me through the window. It’s a huge boost to see a friendly face.
Thursday March 19
More coughing but this is definitely lifting. So great to feel better — I’ve even had a shower. My eyes and head are still hot and are reminding me it’s still there, but it’s great to sit up and feel normal. The itchy skin is irritating, but I can breathe.