This thread by Shiraz Maher sharing his experience of having Covid-19 is terrifying to read, but very insightful as well.

First published in March 2020.

Warning: the following thread contains some graphic content. It does not constitute scientific advice.

I have been debating about whether to ‘go public’ on having coronavirus – which I kind of did inadvertently this morning. So, now I may as well share my experience(s) with you in order to help those who are worried about it or who are thinking they might have it. Here goes...

I was taking this thing pretty seriously from an early stage because of advice from my good friend Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, who rightly identified the coming crisis.

So I put my house in lockdown, I closed the ICSR Centre early, and I started taking precautions. But you need to be constantly vigilant with coronavirus. All it takes is one careless moment, one unthinking touch of your face, accidentally touching a contaminated surface once and suddenly, boom, you’ve got it.

I am 38 and have no underlying health conditions. I figured if I got it, I’d shake it. Here is how things have played out.

Firstly, it’s not the flu. Whoever originally said that, did everyone a great disservice. This thing is not the flu. It’s a nasty, horrible, illness.

I started having symptoms about two weeks ago. The fever was mild and went very quickly. Is it Covid-19? Who knows, but I’ve shaken it quickly. Great.

Then my lungs started packing up and my chest got very tight. This happened around 15-16 March. The cough was dry and unlike anything I have ever had before. It was much more extreme and pronounced than a dry cough you might have during a bout of the flu. It feels like there is something deeply lodged within your lungs, that they are (violently) trying to eject. Of course, there is nothing to actually eject.

The resulting cough is dusty, dry and painful. Much more scary is that you are unsure of when you will stop coughing. You have no control over it. There were times I was worried I would start vomiting because the coughing was so severe.

When you finally stop, it is a relief – but now you are in a new phase altogether.

You are fighting to draw air into your lungs but your chest is tight and, frankly, your lungs are in distress. They are not functioning the way they should.

Your head is also pounding because of the violent coughing. I suffered terrible headaches after these coughing fits.

The evening of Wednesday 18 was the worst day for me. I fought for breath for about 3-4 hours. It was horrific.

I recorded my symptoms and sent it to doctors (my friends). “Classic Covid” came the reply. I kept monitoring it and, frankly, staying awake was a struggle. I went to bed. My breathing remained severely impaired for another 2 days, but I was managing it all from home.

By Friday, I thought I had got through the worst of it and things were looking good. Coronavirus is particularly cruel. Recovery is not linear. On Saturday night I started to feel distinctly unwell again. I decided to take my blood pressure because I have a home monitor... Anything over 180/120 is classified as ‘hypertensive crisis’ (basically, heart attack/stroke territory). Without revealing what mine was, let’s just say I was well, well in excess of this (again, I don’t have an underlying issue). This was easily the most terrifying moment.

I called my doctor friends and told them. “Time to call 999”, they said – so I did. It took more than 15 minutes to speak with a representative; that’s how overwhelmed the emergency services are. I told them my blood pressure and that I have coronavirus.

Ultimately they decided they couldn’t respond to my call. I am not criticising the London ambulance service. They are doing superb work under incredible, unprecedented circumstances. I am telling you this part of the story to underscore two things...

The first is that you should only call them in an absolute emergency. It is not a diagnostic service. The more unnecessary calls, the longer the delay in them answering becomes. Secondly, be prepared to take decisive action for yourself because they might not be able to help.

So I called my doctor friends again and started to take actions to lower my blood pressure naturally, at home. I spent the next 48 hours in bed and, only after this time, did my blood pressure return to anything vaguely resembling ‘normal’ (it was still high, but acceptable).

Now we are into the start of this week. Symptoms have slowly evolved into a less severe cough and my chest being less tight (although these get worse in the evenings). But I have lots of new symptoms: crazy abdominal pains and headaches. The lethargy has persisted throughout.

Today we are approaching the end of 2+ weeks since I first developed symptoms and about 11-12 days since they became particularly acute. For the first time, I feel like I am starting to beat it but I am nowhere near feeling 100%.

Coronavirus appears to have a completely different trajectory in different people. I cannot spot a pattern. Although I am only speaking publicly about it now, I have been whatsapping with lots of friends and colleagues who have also had it. Some are shaking it off relatively easily. Others are suffering very badly. The most difficult part of this is the extent to which it takes hold within your lungs. There is just no way to tell what will happen at the start. You need to watch this symptom if it develops.

So that’s my coronavirus story.

It is a completely mad, crazy illness. It had made me feel more intensely ill than I have ever been in my life. On the Wednesday and Saturday of last week, I was genuinely fearful of what could happen if those symptoms continued to escalate.

I didn’t want to tweet about my experience until I was more comfortable in my own assessment that I am through the worst of it. And I am sharing this with you now so that you can really think about the way this thing is hitting people.

Do you really need to go out right now? Is social distancing really that hard? Is it too much of an effort to wash your hands repeatedly, and to wash them properly, with soap?

I have lost several days of my life to this illness. Many, many other people will lose their lives to it. This virus continues to spread everywhere and you – literally, you – can help stop it with the most basic of efforts.

Wash your hands.

Stay at home.

Do it now.

Tweets posted on 27 March 2020 by @ShirazMaher.

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 27 March 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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