A small entry on surviving COVID-19 so far
I woke up with a dry throat and stumbled towards the bathroom. On the way, I saw the screen of my phone flashed. Usually, I would have fallen back into bed without much thought. Something was nagging me, and I picked up the phone.
I got a message from NHS to inform me that I was tested positive of COVID-19. My first thought was 6am is awfully early for the morning shift for poor sods at the medical testing centre to start. I proceeded to wake up my partner to check his results. It turned out that I was the sole winner in our family for the pandemic lottery.
The virus caused agonising pain and suffering physically or mentally. I’m a sickly person. So I am very used to being ill. I consider myself a relaxed patient. I know things take time and are futile to have expectations. I know how to live day by day thanks to living with chronic illness. However, I didn’t expect this recovery to be as tricky as it had been.
It is quite common that patients lose a sense of taste and smell with this virus. I am no exception. I lost mine on Day four of diagnosis. I decided to eat a lemon to gauge the level of insensitivity. I bit into a cold and waxy surface that greeted me with a wet membrane and burstings of juice. That was all I could taste. At first, this amused me. The days followed paralysed me.
I turned to the Internet to look for solidarity and found very little. A friend of mine passed me a link to a recipe book one day was an intention to soothe. Reading the recipe only frustrated me further. It was clear the writers of the recipes had no direct experience with the virus.
The recipes were full of flavour. There was little attention paid to the texture in comparison. If any of them lived with the virus, this recipe book would look very different.
The first seven days of recovery had a shared pattern of ravenous hunger, followed by a dreamless sleep. Rinse and repeat. Ever since I lost the sense of taste, it became impossible to eat.
The lack of taste and the lack of appetite followed severely impacted my morale for recovery. It seems frivolous and weak to admit my biggest worry was not able to experience the pleasure of food. I understand dismissing my experience is not helpful to me nor others. But it was not easy when the most significant source of joy in my life was gone.
This experience reminded me that no matter how much I fancy myself as an empathetic and sympathetic person. It is never quite enough until you experience something yourself that you realise the plentifulness of blind spots of your thinking. As a design educator and practitioner, I often preach the importance of inclusive practice.
Until I have COVID-19, I would have never anticipated how the loss of taste could hinder recovery so strongly. I would have bet more on breathing difficulties as a priority to soothe. But as a regular patient, I know better than many that the conviction of recovery and the kindness one extends to oneself are most vital.
I am not fully recovered, but I count myself as incredibly lucky. As the festive period draws near, I get to celebrate reaching the end of this year alive. I am happy to report that time writing that much of my senses have returned to normal.
I don’t have any wise words to offer on this. As I age, I have fewer and fewer things that I am sure of. I hope wherever you are reading this that you can be healthy and safe.