After more than two years of writing about covid, when it finally struck, it came on like an express train

by Colin Campbell

RECOVERING from covid and distinctly low on energy, I cast my eyes over the latest blizzard of headlines to erupt in my brain fog absence. This time, rail strikes, which are said to be the precursor to “the worst public sector crisis in 50 years”.

Not another supposed crisis. Every week seems to bring on a new one. Sometimes it might be more comforting if that brain fog would stay around and blank it all out.

After writing about covid for more than two years I suppose it was inevitable that sooner or later I’d end up writing about being a victim, or less dramatically, simply having caught it.

Coming up on 66 and being in the “risk” category it’s not been all that bad but it’s been worse than I expected. In my case it’s certainly not been like a cold, or a minor or passing inconvenience.

On the vexed subject of the rail service, or lack of it, when it got rolling it hit me like an express train.  I did an antigen test, more out of curiosity than anything else, because I had developed a slightly sore throat and an oddly metallic taste in my mouth. I was more surprised than alarmed to see it was positive.

Sitting in the chair, I began to feel sluggish and shivery. And this had nothing to do with psychology, whereby you get a positive test so you succumb to the belief that you must be unwell. By 8pm, when I headed for bed two hours after taking the test, I was shivering like a man standing in midwinter in a duck pond in his underpants. But worse. I piled blankets and a winter duvet on the bed, far, far too much for a June evening, and crawled underneath them. But it was impossible to feel warm.

I shivered uncontrollably for hours. And I was very glad I’d done the test because I knew what was wrong with me. And because I was fully vaccinated and boostered I knew I’d get through it. But I kept thinking as my mind drifted through this very grim and borderline scary experience, thank heaven I was vaccinated. Being hit by the full onslaught of this thing without the vaccine protection didn’t bear thinking about.

At around 2am I realised that, shivery or not, my body temperature was way too high. I had to get up, however weakly, and cool down. Now I know what a proper fever feels like.

Defying covid advice, I cracked open a can of beer, in the hope of gaining some kind of revival and refreshment. Alcohol can work well in very difficult situations. One Saturday afternoon quite a few years ago I experienced the sudden onset of toothache. This very rapidly grew worse. By evening it was agony. I knew an emergency dentist would be open on Sunday morning, but that was hours away. So I opened a bottle of whisky and spent the rest of the night drinking spirits. I don’t drink spirits anymore and haven’t for the past 10 or so years. But this worked. The alcohol eased and then removed the raging pain from my mouth. And it stayed away until I saw the dentist, who dealt with a horrible abscess.

But a can of beer v covid. It was no contest. I didn’t even finish it.

Thereafter I went back to bed, with paracetamol, the shivering, or fever, gradually subsided, and I got a semi decent sleep.

That was probably the worst part. No headache, as many complain of, but a full checklist of the other things, fatigue, listlessness, inability to focus (Sturgeon could have held an instant referendum over the weekend and I wouldn’t have been interested), cough, sore throat, and for now the loss of taste and smell.

So, and as everyone says, it affects everyone in different ways, that’s how my long awaited encounter with covid affected me. Not a serious problem, but certainly not a walk in the park either.

Now I’ll have to wait to see how long before I feel like going for lengthy rides on my bike again, or going back to the leisure centre gym. Not too long I hope.

But that could be some time away. At the moment I feel drained of energy and although a walk in the fresh air is eminently doable and helps, nothing more vigorous currently seems on the cards. So for me, a new twist in the seemingly never ending covid saga. And among people I know, there does seem to have been a recent quite rapid increase in infections, and re-infections. But I fully expect in a week or two to be back to normal.

Last Tuesday, before covid struck, I received my bowel cancer screening kit. This was due last January but when I phoned up then I was told the pandemic had delayed it till June.

Previously, I would have put it in a drawer, told myself I’d get round to it soon, and maybe done it a couple of weeks later. This time I did it on Tuesday – and it’s now such a very simple procedure – and posted it at Queensgate the same day.

The results are guaranteed within two weeks. And the older we get, the more significant that return envelope becomes. Covid regardless, that was also very much on my mind.

In fact the envelope arrived last Monday morning, bearing large NHS insignia. I tore it open. It was a quick return and was also a considerable relief. Getting the all-clear always will be.

Between 2018 and 2020 the average take-up in Scotland for bowel screening tests was just 63 per cent. That means more than a third of the population ignored it.

It’s not an entirely black and white issue for some, or many people. But it is for me. If you get an all clear test that is very good news, and if you get a different result at least a problem has been discovered which can be dealt with in time before it spreads with unknown and potentially devastating consequences.

But a large number of people just don’t want to know. Through the lingering covid brain fog, I don’t really understand that attitude.


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