It’s funny how we all think we are inevitable. Especially when we are young. But how can I be inevitable when I face the virus every single day?
So 1 year, 3 hospitals and 3 rotations later, covid finally caught up with me!
The thing is though, I didn’t even know I had it. I had a cold; blocked nose and a lot of sneezing and some myalgia (but I put that down to the HIIT exercises I had done, so I cannot be sure). It was only when my ward had an outbreak and I was tested that I realized I had covid because my swab came back positive. And what did I do? I cried. Just my usual reaction to everything.
Then I had to self-isolate and my symptoms became worse. I had a constant splitting headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever and shortness of breath even with short distances. However, what I found most difficult to deal with, was the head fuzz. I found it difficult to concentrate and felt that my head was not a part of my body. I do not know how to describe it, all I knew was this was not me. I’ve always been very active whether it is with work or hobbies, I couldn’t possibly sit around with my head in the clouds.
So I did exactly that, I went through book after book which I enjoyed very much! I also learnt to cross-stitch and I started building puzzles. Once I slowly got my strength back, I was able to look after my plants and experiment with cooking again which I enjoyed a lot.
But I stayed off work for nearly 6 weeks just because I could not breathe at short distances and I could not even climb one flight of stairs without feeling unwell. And this really affected my mental health. It was the first time since I started working at the age of 17 that I had taken so much time off from work. It made me anxious and fearful about going out by myself, in case I became unwell when outside. I really did not want to be admitted to hospital. So I stayed at home.
The thing is though, my heart wouldn’t agree with me. Did I really go through that journey to achieve my dream just for covid to sit me at home? No way! I am stronger than this. So I started to take short walks in the local park, short grocery trips just to increase my exercise tolerance. And this really helped. I went home for Mother’s Day weekend and did a 5.5km walk around Regent’s Park. I cannot explain how happy this made me! From being completely breathless at less than 100 yards two weeks before that to walking 5.5km, I was over the moon and thought I was ready to go back work.
That was far from the truth though, when I returned to my flat to attend work the next day, I struggled to sleep due to anxiety. When I eventually fell asleep and woke up in the morning, I had to resist the urge to call in sick. As I parked my car and walked into the building, it took every strength in my body to keep going. I eventually got to the ward and my colleagues all said “welcome back”, it made me feel a little more comfortable. I started the day as we usually do and time went by. But I could not go home at 5pm, I was on a long day, somehow by luck, the ward I was assigned was not busy at all, so I talked to another colleague as we waited for 8pm to come by. I had done it! I had returned to work and completed my first day!
The rest of my week was ok, just the usual ward problems. But I was oncall over the weekend and so again, that feeling of dread and doom came over me. But I persisted. And I’m glad I did, because I realised how much I had missed my job. How much I had missed patient contact. One patient even said he was going to write a letter about how amazing we had been in our treatment of him, things like this always make it worthwhile. They remind me of why this journey is a blessing.
The biggest lesson I learnt though is that I had not looked after myself at all. Now I take breaks, even if it’s just 15 minutes to run to the prayer room and it makes all the difference to my day and my energy.
Moral of the story? NEVER give up on your dreams! AND ALWAYS make time for yourself!
By Shafia Khanum, FY2.