Down News blogger Helen Hastings tells of her experience with Covid-19 last December and survived, and now slams conspiracy theorists for their denial of the real truth about this deadly virus.
It’s five pm on Christmas eve, one of my favourite times of year. The shops have closed and the roads slowly start to empty and a quiet descends across the country, writes Helen Hastings.
And if you’ve forgotten the sausage meat, the streaky bacon or the one hundredth box of mince pies (just to be on the safe side) then tough cookies!
I can be found then in the kitchen decanting my sloe gin that has waited for me patiently from the early days of autumn while the ingredients for the mother-of-all-stuffings sits to one side, ready for my culinary treatment.
Later I would be in my living room, fire roaring and a large whisky in hand while I watch the father Ted Christmas special. There’s just something heart-warming and life-affirming about a bunch of priests lost in a lingerie department. I’ve watched it for the last ten years in a row but I don’t care what anyone says, it’s STILL funny!
After I can be sure that Father Todd Unctuous has got his just desserts, it’s then time for last minute present wrapping (and a few more whiskeys). It’s a night where everything is right with the world and I count my blessings.
But Christmas Eve 2020 had other ideas in store for me.
I had tested positive for Covid 19 on 17th December. As a health care worker, I was used to the regular testing and had become somewhat accustomed to the nail-biting twenty-four hours in which I waited to get my test results which were always negative.
This time it was different though, I had lost my sense of smell and I could not deny the creeping sense of unease that settled in my stomach and would not leave. The results were in that night, and all was confirmed, “The Rona” was crashing my door down and there was nothing I could do but let her in and hope for the best.
The first few days went easily enough and I used the anxiety at having tested positive as a handy excuse to relax with a book (and not forgetting a medicinal whisky or two).
This was going to be easy, I mean, we are talking about a woman who has never had flu and rarely got anything more serious than a cold, even the various vomiting and diarrhoea bugs always passed me by. I was healthy,right? And I was safe? WRONG!
On the fifth day I went to bed feeling a bit shaky, and didn’t get out of bed for another four days. The fever was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
I woke up three mornings in a row… my bed was saturated with sweat. My body was working so hard to expel the virus that my sheets were soaked right through to the mattress. And changing the sheets was a laborious exercise in itself because I was struggling to find the energy to stand up.
I had a crashing headache and diarrhoea, a temperature that was off the scale, a cough that raked through my body and on Christmas Eve, that magical time were everything should be wonderful, I coughed up blood and had to phone 999.
The medics were happy enough that I wasn’t in any immediate danger with my breathing, but the warning was stark, that if I got any worse I would be taken into hospital. That night I lay in bed in the prone position struggling to get my breathing under control and my mind wandered into the danger zone… ‘I could die’.
I found myself thinking ‘if I get any worse I will have to go into hospital and I could die’. I was staring the reality of Covid-19 right in the face and all I could do was hope against hope that I would pull through to the other side.
I was lucky. Very lucky. In the next couple of days my head cleared and I was able to get to grips with my breathing, but even having a conversation caused me to hyper-ventilate and it would be another fortnight before I felt back to normal.
I was extremely lucky and I will never take it for granted that I was not a victim of long Covid. To make my experience even worse, I had found out that eight of my colleagues had diagnosed positive too.
This meant that my illness was coupled with feelings of extreme anxiety wondering if my colleagues would all still be there if I ever managed to get back to work. The whole experience left me drained not only physically but emotionally and mentally, and it’s one I will never forget.
Since my recovery I have found myself to be even more aware than before of the new etiquette of social distancing and hygiene and I try not to become too paranoid in my efforts to protect myself and the people around me but I do fail miserably sometimes.
My appointment for the vaccine couldn’t come quick enough and I arrived at the vaccination centre on a snowy morning, rolling my sleeve up vigorously while smiling like the Cheshire cat under my mask. Like a lot of people, I view the vaccination roll-out as our only true pathway back to normality.
However, in the wake of Covid-19 another pandemic has been brewing, and it’s not a naturally occurring mutation that has begun in bats or even engineered in a lab, I’m talking about a pandemic of human nature that has bulldozed the health service and the vaccination roll out.
It’s a pandemic that has swept the world using social media as its medium for destruction. I’m talking about the ‘Covid isn’t real’ brigade, the ant- maskers and the ‘great re-setters’. Truth is the victim.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love to get my teeth into a big juicy conspiracy as much as the next person. The idea that there is a mysterious and dark underbelly to the lives we all think we know holds an illicit and irresistible allure, but common sense should surely have its place.
I mean, we can’t just jump on any old conspiracy bandwagon and ride into the sunset not really sure of were the wretched thing is going, can we? But with the pandemic theorists, that’s exactly what is happening.
Recently doctors and nurses in Italy, in one of the worst hit regions finished their shift, tired and emotionally spent and were greeted outside by a group of protestors chanting ‘Covid isn’t real’ while vandalising the cars belonging to hospital staff.
Sadly Italy is not alone.every country is reporting their own pandemic theorists putting their ‘well meaning’ spanner in the works. Only last week it was reported that protestors outside a Northern Irish vaccine centre were handing out leaflets supporting the anti-vaccine movement.
And concurrently in America, one nurse reported how some of her patients spent their last dying breaths demanding that she find out exactly what was wrong with them, because ‘Covid is not real’. These people die in her care, leaving her devastated and broken-hearted long after her shift has ended.
Social media explodes the Covid myths out of our screens like machinegun fire with each new claim getting more and more ridiculous than the last, striking fear into the hearts of the more naïve and vulnerable among us.
I want to put my arm around the person right now who wants the vaccine so badly yet is terrified by the uneducated and baseless reports that are being hammered into our society.
Social media has contributed to this anarchy has become a very dangerous animal all on its own and the pandemic has become its feeding ground. And with people throwing disregard to masks, social distancing and vaccines, it has become a killing ground.
Covid-19 is a new territory and so much is still unchartered, the conspiracy theorists out there making the passage even more dangerous.
As a healthcare worker, and someone who has has had this potentially fatal virus, I feel the rantings of the conspiracy theorists like a punch to the stomach.
I find myself wanting to scream, demand that they all shut their gaping uneducated maws and allow for the rest of us to clamber safely from the wreckage of this terrible disease, while helping the more vulnerable and unsure among us, taking their hands and promising that if we really are ‘all in this together’, then it can only get better.
And it will……… won’t it?
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