'It was a harrowing experience' - What it is like to be on a coronavirus ward in Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary
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My experience of COVID-19 started with a strange itch on my wrist two weeks ago. I didn’t think anything of it and then I slowly began to develop flu-like symptoms.
I woke up the next day with an excruciating headache across the top of my head. It was debilitating, and the fatigue meant I spent 20 hours a day a day in bed.
I lost my appetite completely and in the middle of last week I lost my sense of taste and smell which is a tell-tale sign.
I ended up having to dial 999 because I had reached the point where I couldn’t look after myself, I didn’t have the energy to shower or even go and get a glass of water.
Once the ambulance arrived they did various tests outside my flat and they didn’t think it was serious enough to take me to the hospital, but they took me to A&E and eventually after a lot of other tests they discovered that I had a dangerous level of inflammation in my lungs.
They decided to take a swab to test for coronavirus and taken to a ward to await my results which came through a few hours later as positive for COVID-19.
I was relatively lucky, my symptoms, by comparison to others in the ward, were relatively mild but I still needed Oxygen for a few days due to my levels and blood pressure being low.
The last couple of nights on that ward were bedlam. There were power cuts on one night and it was really difficult for the nurses to keep up with the demand, they are clearly just rushed off their feet.
There were four patients in the ward I was in and two of them had much worse symptoms than I did. One of the men was on oxygen but was really disruptive and nasty with it, although obviously not intentionally.
Some of the noises that came from the bed next to me were like a scalded cat which you could hear around the ward and beyond, it was like being in a horror movie film set at times.
He was struggling to breathe and the nurses were trying their best to alleviate the pain discomfort but they couldn’t do anything to help these people.
Between the two of them in my ward it was impacting on the recovery of others around them because you couldn’t get any rest or any sleep, or switch off from it all.
They were rotating the worst ones through the wards as they got worse, and these individuals were in a bad way and will probably be there for a long time.
It isn’t like anything that you can think of. We have all had flu, and we are all familiar with flu-like symptoms but this nothing like the flu, it strikes without warning.
The hospitals are hopelessly ill-prepared, that is quite striking. The nurses are having to wear plastic yellow gowns, face masks and gloves but you just got the impression that so much more could and should have been done well before now.
They seem to be quite well staffed at this moment in time and their spirits are relatively high. There is a good sense of camaraderie but they deserve a lot more money than they are currently on.
The nurses were fantastic, i couldn’t praise them enough given what they have to keep up with, and they deserve so much better than they get.
I was released on Monday and had to get a taxi home. I am still really breathless and I still have a dry raspy cough. I just have to walk slowly and while I feel better than I have done, I have got another two weeks of isolation but I am lucky I have neighbours willing to help me out.
It was a harrowing experience that will never leave me. It is the distress and the anxiety from other patients that will never leave me.
Scott Dixon was speaking to Conor Matchett