You’d have to have been sleeping under a rock to escape the news as a viral pandemic spread across the globe; actually, that may have been a useful preventative strategy. In January, coronavirus featured in every other headline and closeted racists thought themselves justified in expressing their real opinions. In February, it was the major headline on a daily basis. In March, it hit the UK, and it hit us hard.
Supermarkets were stripped bare as people thoughtlessly hoarded materials without considering the needs of others. More and more offices started encouraging people to work from home in an attempt to halt the spread. The accommodations consistently denied to disabled people as being too difficult to carry out were suddenly implemented without second thought. An already desperate NHS was stretched beyond its limited means. The death toll kept climbing. Finally, our esteemed leaders decided to listen to the concerns raised months prior by educated and experienced scientists, and took the matter somewhat more seriously. Schools closed. Bars and cafes shut. All non-essential workers were advised to work from home or not at all, although the definition of non-essential was liberal and left people without pay.
Fear and uncertainty reigned supreme, with some saying that the media was making a fuss over nothing, while those of us who were vulnerable to the pandemic watched the noose around our necks tightening beyond our control. We were told we were dispensable, an acceptable loss.
I had only been working from home for a single day when my temperature soared. It felt like a sunburn covering every inch of my skin, only it was coming from inside. Thinking about it I had been more fatigued than normal, and more nauseous and dizzier too, which I’d simply put down to the Myalgic Encephalomyelitis reacting to stress. I had a cough but I wouldn’t have called it persistent. I didn’t give it much thought until the following morning, when I was apparently radiating heat detectable from some distance, and could barely stay awake. I actually don’t remember all that much; I wasn’t sleeping so much as passing out and coming around only to pass out again. I stayed lay down in bed for safety’s sake.
I couldn’t actually access a test, or any medical help at all which reminded me of the viral meningitis I contracted almost a decade ago, so we’ll never know for certain if I had coronavirus. In fact, given that letters have been sent out requesting some disabled people sign a Do Not Resuscitate upon admission to hospital, I wonder if I was actually safer on my own without someone else making the call over whether this poor, pitiful disabled person deserves to live. However, even without the diagnostic test the development of those symptoms at that time leads me to believe that I did, in fact, have coronavirus.
The next few days were miserable. I constantly felt as if I was cold despite the fever, and the fatigue was so overwhelming that I didn’t see another room for several days. My mental health plummeted. When I was finally able to get out of bed, I found my knees buckling beneath my weight, and I frequently lost balance. Reluctantly I began using my walking frame around our three-room apartment, thinking it was a temporary adjustment. It wasn’t.
My M.E started with viral meningitis, and it is well-documented that other similar viral infections are what triggered M.E in many patients. It stands to reason that coronavirus will do the same to some unlucky souls, and for those of us who already have it, it could only make things worse.
Despite now being back at work, I have had to accept that coronavirus has had a significant impact on my already pretty shabby health. I’m having to make adjustments to the way I work, and once lockdown lifts this will apply to the social aspects of my life too. I’m fortunate in that I already had the resources I need, and I have the support of my husband, parents, and friends. Even my work has been exceptionally accommodating. I would not be coping anywhere nearly as well I am without all that.
Coronavirus has left a path of death and destruction in its wake, and given that the lack of testing means we cannot know the true extent of the spread of COVID_19, we will never be able to track just how much damage it does to survivors. I am but one of thousands, potentially millions, put in danger by poor leadership, poor reaction times and responses, and putting the finances of individuals at risk thus forcing them to work. Even when the initial threat has all blown over, many people’s lives will simply never be the same again.