Life

I’m a Healthy 24-Year-Old. Coronavirus Landed Me in Intensive Care

I never thought I'd get coronavirus. Then, out of nowhere, I came down with a high temperature.
23 April 2020, 8:15am
Young People and Coronavirus: What Are the Symptoms?
Photos courtesy Faiz Ilyas.

I never thought I’d get coronavirus. I’m 24 years old, I’ve got no underlying health conditions, no diabetes, no asthma – I’m a bit chubby, that’s all! Because of the stories on social media, I felt like this was a virus that was just targeting the elderly.

But on the 15th of March, my mum rang me during the day when I was at work taxiing part-time. “I want you to come home, everyone’s not feeling too well,” she said. I thought it must be nothing. But out of nowhere, I came down with a really high temperature. I went straight home and got into bed, still dressed in my clothes.

For the next few days, I just stopped eating and I constantly had a high temperature. It kept going downhill not just for me, but for my dad as well. After four days of this, my wife rang NHS 111 for me, and they sent an ambulance. The paramedics checked me and decided I wasn’t too bad at this point. But when they checked my dad, they said his oxygen levels were really low, so they took him into hospital. The doctors sent him home three days later when they tested him for COVID-19 and it came back negative, even though he had the exact same symptoms as me. They’d decided his symptoms were manageable at home.

A few days before that, I started to develop breathlessness. I had this horrible taste and smell in my mouth. You know when you cook with dirty oil and it has that nasty smell? It completely put me off eating anything, and I kept gagging up phlegm with blood. I couldn’t even vomit because I hadn’t eaten anything since the Sunday before. All I was drinking was diluted orange and blackcurrant juice. Things got really scary when I started to hallucinate. I felt like I had all this pressure coming down on my body, like I was being squashed from everywhere.

Literally the day after my dad got back from hospital, my mum and my wife tried to call 999 for me. They started ringing from around 2PM in the afternoon but it wasn’t until 12 hours later that two paramedics came through. When they checked me, they found that my oxygen levels were really low, and that was it. They took me into Bradford Royal Infirmary.

Even though I wasn’t allowed to have anyone with me, I wasn’t too worried at this point. I thought to myself, “My dad came out three days later, I’ll be alright.” But when the radiographer did my X-ray, the doctor noticed I had fluid at the bottom of my lungs. After a couple of hours, one of the doctors came along to find one of my arteries to insert a needle into, but she was really struggling. She sent someone else, and they couldn’t find my arteries either. That’s when they made the decision that my arteries were collapsing and that they needed to take me into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

ICU had these see-through glass units with all this impressive, scary-looking equipment. At the time, it was completely empty. By this point, the doctors had tested me and it came back positive: I had coronavirus. The nurses were wearing more protective gear than I’d ever seen up to that point. Plastic coverings over their body, gloves, masks over their mouth and nose, netting around their hair, and see-through visors to cover their eyes. One of the doctors confirmed I was their first coronavirus patient to go into ICU.

I was in ICU for five days. I was one stage short of going on the ventilator. The nurses put this Bane-like oxygen mask against my face. Each time I tried to breathe, the mask forced more oxygen down my throat. They gave me this little remote button to call two nurses who were responsible for watching me 24/7. But even if I pressed that button, it was still terrifying because if something went wrong, it would take them up to 20 minutes to put all the protective gear on.

After three days, I had started to improve and was taken out of ICU and slowly weaned off the oxygen. On the 30th of March, I was finally able to come home.

They say that for every day you spend in ICU, it takes a week to recover. It’s only been three weeks that I’ve been out of hospital, but I’m on the mend and I’ve actually started to eat again. If I start vacuuming the whole house or if I have a shower, I still get breathless, but every day I’m improving. This week, I even decided to start driving a taxi again, but I’ve been wearing protective gear. I’ve got my hand gel in the car.

If there’s one thing I’ll remember from my experience of coronavirus, it was the care of the NHS nurses. It was just next level. I had all these wires coming out of my body, suffering from a virus that is killing people and has no known cure, and I was completely alone. On the first night, I thought I was going to die. When the nurses who were monitoring me came in to check my equipment and medication, I asked if they could stay a bit longer. They sat at my side and held my hand for ages. They put their lives in danger by staying with me.

@ainajkhan

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