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Saturday, 15 August 2020

When it sounds simple but is anything but

  There are words and phrases that will become synonymous with 2020:

  • unprecedented
  • social distancing
  • lockdown
  • test and trace
  • clap for carers.
One that I have come across recently is 'quick and simple'. Everything is being made to sound simple but my experience is that many things are not as simple as they should be.

Symptoms

We were initially given two symptoms that we should be aware of: 
  1. fever
  2. new persistent cough.
More recently they have added change/lack of smell/taste. 

This sounds simple. They keep saying it on the news. If you experience these symptoms, you must self-isolate and get a test. 

It's all simple. It's simple to recognise the symptoms. It's simple to self-isolate. It's simple to get a test. 

Well, let's start with the symptoms. 

Fever

Let's leave aside my disability for now. Fever is an initial symptom of hundreds of different illnesses. In the East Riding, covid infection rates are currently at 2 per 100,000 of the population. The chances are, fever is an indication of something else, but Covid-simplicity means that we now immediately assume it could be covid. 

Now let's add in the complications of a disability. There are infections that are more common for people like me. I have to self-catheterise daily, which can increase the risk of urine infections. I'll be honest, sometimes I get a bit sick of doing it and miss a day or two and then kidney infections are a possibility. I spend my whole time wearing incontinence pads, which are less comfortable than nappies, and these can cause infection. Trouble is, I can't feel much down there, so the first sign that something is wrong is often fever. Any sensation-based symptoms take much longer to make their presence felt.

A lesser-known effect of spinal cord injuries is that your body can be less able to regulate bodily functions, such as temperature. I have found that if I spend too long in a hot environment, my body temperature goes up and I find it difficult to get it back down again. We've been drifting in and out of heatwave, so when my temperature went up on the Friday, I thought little of it. It was 30oC outside, and I was working in a garden office that was not dissimilar to a sauna.

Cough

It's quite simple, if you have a new persistent cough, get tested. A couple of times since the pandemic began, I have coughed and provoked the question, "How long have you had that cough?" I've been asthmatic since I forgot to turn the fume cupboard on in a chemistry practical in about 1991. I ended up breathing concentrated sulphuric acid and since then, I've had a cough. 

My asthma is now really well controlled. I can't even remember the last attack I had, but I do cough a lot. 

I also choke a lot. That is potentially more embarrassing, as I can't control it at all. A bit of food gets stuck and off we go! Once I start coughing, that's it! I can't stop! During this pandemic, I've evacuated a market area in a busy city and an entire country park with my choking.

Get a test - it's quick and simple

I've lost count of the number of times Matt Hancock has said this. You must get a test if you have symptoms. It's quick and simple.

When my temperature was up again on Monday (after being fine all weekend) I was a little more worried. It was still hot outside but not as intense, and I'd worked in the house which was cooler. I was also coughing a little more than usual... so I ordered a test.

Test centres

The website declared that our nearest test centre was 10 miles away. Sounds great, except that this is measured as the crow flies. The town in question is the other side of a large estuary and, not being a bird, and being rubbish at flying, we would have to drive round said estuary, on a 50 minute each way drive. 

The system being simple as it is, didn't give the option to search further.

Home test

On the surface, this seemed a better option. The site assured users that the test would be delivered next day. You then pop it in a priority post box and will get results, probably within 24 hours of it arriving at the test centre. Results are texted and emailed.

SIMPLE!

I ordered the test, first thing in the morning. It did arrive next day but not until 8:00 pm. We had to post it before 4:00 pm. So it missed that day's post. 

Don't even get me started on how 'simple' administering the test was. It was hilarious! You have to wash your hands for 20s before and after cleaning a surface to put your test kit on, and again before and after blowing your nose, and again later in the process. My hands have never been so clean, though may have little skin left!

Royal Mail tracking did enable us to know that the test arrived at the test centre at around 8:30 am on Thursday... 6 days after the initial high temperature. 

It is now Saturday and we still don't have the results. I do, however, have other symptoms that would indicate a urine infection. 

Self-isolation

While this whole fiasco is in process, the advice is simple. Do not leave the house... except to post your test kit.

Thankfully, we are now well sorted with online shopping. On the down side, I have an assistance dog that has bundles of energy and needs daily exercise and our house and garden, whilst not tiny, aren't big enough to provide all her exercise for this long.

So we've been taking her for walks but trying to time it so that we don't meet anyone. I haven't used my crutches for walks, just in case I fall and need help. I've been using my wheelchair only. So technically, I haven't touched anything. In theory, we should have got someone to walk her but not everybody has family and friends nearby and I was not going to ask either of our 80 - 90 year old neighbours to walk her! 

Based on the old rules of 7 days, I should now be fine to go out but they've recently changed it to 10 days, so that takes me to Monday and for hubby, until next Friday. So we've cancelled our plans for the weekend and we'll continue to stay in, except for dog walking, until we get results... which feels like it might never happen. 

And, simple though it all sounded at the beginning of the week, I'm now 99% certain that the results will be negative and that I'll be getting antibiotics for a urine infection as soon as I'm clear to go to the doctor's. Meanwhile, I'm trying to flush it out and drinking so much water that it's probably best to stay indoors anyway. 

I have searched for some information that might cover the possibility that you follow this simple procedure and then realise that the fever was something un-covid-related but there simply isn't anything to help me.

What have I learned?

Firstly, I have learned to be very sympathetic with those who have symptoms but don't get tested. If I'm honest, I wish I hadn't bothered. As we're nowhere close to resuming pre-covid activity, it is highly unlikely that I will get it. We're not really seeing anyone other than our sons, one of which is fully isolating (so we hardly ever see him anyway) and the other who has spent most of his life self-isolating and so is also lower risk. 

We have both been actively trying to lose a bit more weight, as being overweight isn't covid-helpful. However, I am now gaining weight because of lack of proper exercise, in spite of only consuming around 1400 calories a day. This has highlighted to me, how much I need my exercise!

Don't dust (especially a house that hasn't been dusted for months!) It makes you cough... especially if you're asthmatic.

So next time my temperature goes up, I'll keep my trap shut and continue as normal, which basically means social distancing (2 - 3m minimum) and wearing a mask where that isn't possible. I'll also continue to wash my hands (as I have done since childhood). Unless I get severe and definite symptoms, I won't be ordering a test. In reality, you have to order the test before you have symptoms for it to be useful anyway. 

Conclusion: it is definitely NOT quick OR simple!

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