I had Covid-19

Alison Bender   Fitness Personal  

“You’ve had Covid? How was it?” It’s a question I get asked a lot, and the answer is not simple. If I say “it was bad” it feels like I’m undermining the thousands of people that actually were really bad, those who were hospitalised and struggling to breathe. But if I say “fine” then it only tells half the story; I fall somewhere in between. The biggest takeaway for me is that it drags on. I am in week four right now, and still don’t feel myself. I am lucky, my job is not overly physical because I wouldn’t be able to do anything too physically taxing.

Due to my job I often think about Covid in footballers. So many have reported positive tests – there were 16 positive just this week in the Premier League, yet not a single one appears to have had anything more than mild symptoms, thank goodness. I am 43, fit and healthy and although I acknowledge that most players are a good decade younger than me, I still find it strange there has not been a single case more similar to my experience, and let’s not forget the managers and backroom staff.

This is how mine played out.

On Sunday October 18th I attended Tottenham v West Ham as a Premier League reporter. I was really excited, as a freelancer my work has dropped considerably and I’ve become a bit of a stay at home mum lately (I have a 3 year old girl and a 6 year old at school), but still keeping across everything in football, so I’ve been busier than ever.

Reporting at Tottenham v West Ham Sunday 18th Oct

I felt completely normal and well at the match, actually full of energy and excited to be doing the job I love. The game was a crazy one, Tottenham went 3-0 up in 16 minutes and it looked like there was no way back for West Ham, and then a final flurry of goals from the 82nd minute saw West Ham draw, and on pitch celebrations that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a World Cup final.

I hurried pitchside to do my interviews and followed all the very strict Premier League protocol. I interviewed Declan Rice and Son Heung Min at a distance of about 2m and put my mask on between interviews. I did a few PTCs in the stands and then headed off home in my car, still feeling great.

Pitch side listening to Jose Mourinho before interviewing post match

The next day (Monday 19th) I was on the radio at 2100 and I spent a couple of hours prepping. About 2030 (30 minutes before I was due to go on air) I started to feel strange. It came on suddenly, I felt hot and bothered and I couldn’t think straight. I didn’t want to let them down so I struggled on, but I knew something was wrong. By the time I came off the radio my temperature was over 38 and so I booked a Covid test and went straight to bed.

I was lucky to get a test 5 mins drive from my house for 1100 the next morning. By that time I felt terrible: pounding headache like my head was in a vice. I swabbed my throat and nose and went back to bed.

I had a bad day and night, tossing and turning with a raging headache and high temperature and around 4am I got my test result through: positive.

I can’t fault how quick and easy this whole process was and I was delivered my result quickly.

My test and trace app was efficient, warning a friend that I had been with on Saturday to isolate and I had several calls to make sure I was staying home and to see if I needed support. My husband was alerted also and my family were told they must isolate.

Wed to Friday were the worst. I experienced really bad muscle aches all over my body so intense I couldn’t get comfortable. I was too tired to do anything and slept most of the day.

My appetite was strange, I knew when I was hungry, but the experience of ‘hunger’ felt different. I could not taste or smell anything. I could experience sweet or sour or bitter, but nothing else.

Drinking a vitamin drink- I couldn’t taste a thing!

On Saturday (day 5) the aches and headaches started to ease but I experienced a wheeze (which was a little worrying) and I noticed my breathing was shallow. I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without having to sit and recover a few minutes.

By Sunday that wheeziness had passed and I felt like I was on the mend (but with extreme fatigue). I slept a lot and felt really low. It didn’t help that I was isolating from my two children and husband, which felt really sad.

The following week (day 7+) I started to feel back to normal and took on minimal work (radio and podcasts appearances) but I noticed my breathing wasn’t quite right and I felt breathless. I started to experience heart palpitations and an irregular heartbeat. My taste was still absent though my smell was starting to return a little. I didn’t fancy alcohol or coffee (something I drank a lot of before).

Week 3: I felt almost normal again (except my taste was still a little weak). I was out of isolation and working again. I was trying to walk every day but finding it a little harder than usual. Then I had what you might call a relapse. I felt exhausted for 2 days and slept 12 hours two nights in a row. My breathing was very shallow and I felt breathless. I developed a strange angry hot red rash on my face for two days. I can’t be certain if this was covid related or something else, but it’s worth noting because I have never experienced it before.

Week 4: It is the start of week 4 and although I feel a lot better, my taste is still not completely normal, my breathing is still shallow and I tried to do some yoga and gentle stretching and it was hard. The next day my body felt a bit out of sorts telling me I should wait a little longer. I have a low level constant headache and I also have a bit of brain fog, finding it harder to recall the names of people and things, I’m certainly not as ‘quick.’

I am lucky that my job is not physical but there is no way I could run or do anything more strenuous than a walk. Do I have long covid? I think it’s too early to tell, but I certainly don’t’ feel quite right. That is why I am so fascinated by how it is affecting players, with most of them asymptomatic.

Taking lots of walks outside

I am continuing to read and educate myself but there is still so much we do not know.

Finally to address the other question I get asked:  How did I get it? Well I truly have no idea. I have been doing all the things I’m supposed to do: wearing a mask, distancing, sanitising. We still have no idea of the transmission timescale so I don’t even know where I got it. Anyway, sorry if this is a dull read, it’s not dramatic. I wasn’t hospitalised and unable to breathe. I do think it’s important to understand though. I keep hearing  “ it’s just like flu“ and I can tell you it is not like a flu, because even when you think it has left your body, you are left with a few little reminders that you had it, I hope they pass soon.