Hip & Healthy team member, Issy, shares her coronavirus story after making a full recovery since contracting it back in October 2020.

With over 3.5 million people in the UK having tested positive for COVID since the pandemic began (as of January 2021), it’s probably no surprise that at least one person from the H&H team contracted the virus. That person being me! Following government guidelines throughout the pandemic, plus the fact that I am aged 23 and lead a healthy, active lifestyle (I mean I do work at Hip & Healthy after all!), I wasn’t overly worried about catching the virus. If I did happen to catch it, I was sure that it wouldn’t have too much of an effect on me, having heard many stories about people in my demographic getting COVID without a single symptom or side effect, I thought I would probably follow in their footsteps. Although, my main concern was not myself and I grew increasingly worried as lockdown restrictions eased towards the summer that I could potentially spread the virus unknowingly. Funnily enough, it was quite the opposite and when I did pick the virus up, I noticed symptoms within around 48 hours although it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I picked it up.

I believe I contracted the virus through my mum who picked it up working. She is a hairdresser and was wearing full PPE yet still managed to catch it off a client. When the symptoms began, everybody in my household got tested and received a positive result…I think that’s what you would call a full house! A sense of dread filled me when the positive result came in as I had seen two friends just a couple of days before for a walk, we were following government guidelines but as proven by my mum’s case, this doesn’t always mean you’re protected. Luckily both friends did not contract the virus, giving me some faith in those current rules but I was just thankful that neither of the two people I saw fell into the vulnerable category. I felt guilty enough having to inform them of the news I had caught the virus. Had that been somebody elderly, for example, my grandparents, my anxiety would have been through the roof.

Following my positive test, I began to feel a lot worse which I had not anticipated. My symptoms weren’t the typical ones I had heard others talk about or listed on the government website as the most common at the time, no continuous cough, no change in sense of smell or taste. I felt very achy and weak, all I wanted to do was curl up in bed! I developed a cold, an excruciating headache and struggled to sleep at night which is rare for me. The most distressing part was the pressure I felt on my chest and lungs, which made normal flowing breath more of a struggle. I found myself deliberately having to take in deep breaths to regulate my breathing, something I’ve never had to do before. These symptoms were quite intense for three days and felt very foreign to me. The virus was like nothing I had experienced in the past which was what put me on edge the most. 

My lovely colleagues and friends checked in with me regularly to see how I was doing and if I was getting bored in quarantine, when I could bear to look at the screen through my banging head, my answer was simply no…I was way too poorly to be bored. I was bed-bound for the best part of a week although I did start to feel better towards the end. On the 8th day of quarantine, with the help of a Wholefoods juice delivered to my door (special thanks to my boyfriend for this), I dragged myself out of bed and resumed some semi-normal jobs such as washing clothes, tidying etc.

Out of nowhere when I was starting to feel more like myself, my smell and taste vanished into thin air! I had heard the COVID horror stories of loss of taste and smell but thought I’d managed to dodge this as I was coming out the other side at this point. I literally took a bite into a beetroot, which usually I cannot stand the taste of, and tasted absolutely nada! As a massive foodie, this was a bit of a catastrophe…I mean food is life right?! As mealtimes commenced each day I was left disappointed and unfulfilled as every dish tasted like… well it didn’t taste like anything at all! On a mission to get my smell and taste back, I began frantically googling ways to do so and came across ‘smell training’. 

When researching olfactory dysfunction being a side effect of COVID, I was most shocked by the fact that it was affecting my brain. It’s not that you cannot smell/taste due to being congested with cold. Your brain is not responding to tastes or smells around you, almost like it’s been switched off. Not only is it a total downer not being able to enjoy delicious food but it can also be dangerous as our olfactory system acts as a detector for hazards, for example, rotten foods which will make you sick. Luckily, I regained my taste and smell fully within a week although COVID did seem to linger in other ways. 

As a regular runner, I was keen to get my trainers back on and hit the park but even after 2 full weeks since I first started feeling myself again, I could feel a strain on my chest, this did ease throughout the run but it had an effect on my pace and stamina. I also felt a lot more breathless during exercise, as well as when doing normal activities such as walking up and down the stairs. It’s been nearly 3 months since I had COVID and I’m happy to say that I feel 100% recovered and have been back to full fitness, completing a running challenge of 150 kilometres over the course of January to kickstart the new year. 

No matter how fit and healthy you deem yourself to be, COVID affects us all completely differently. As somebody who has had the virus, the best advice I can give is to be patient with yourself, don’t push yourself before you’re ready, don’t feel guilty for contracting the virus and lastly don’t compare the way you feel to others. Always trust your gut feeling, if you’re under the weather, even if the symptoms aren’t a carbon copy of the NHS symptom list or the same as somebody you know who had COVID, go and get tested or self-isolate. You can never be too careful in the world we’re living in at the moment. 

Looking back at my experience, I would urge people to continue following the guidelines. I isolated as soon as my mum knew her client tested positive and luckily I got clear symptoms in a relatively short space of time which made it very obvious I had it. I think one of the reasons COVID-19 is spreading so uncontrollably is because people are simply unknowingly spreading it. I think asymptomatic cases are a massive issue and the pre-symptomatic stage is also fooling a lot of people. You can be spreading the virus in that pre-symptomatic stage so it really is so important to stay home if test and trace contact you or your friend/colleague who you’ve seen tests positive. Just because you’re currently feeling well doesn’t mean you aren’t contagious. We’re muddling our way through the toughest of times but it WILL get better if we all play our part.

words by Isabelle Shury

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