COVID19 experience from anonymous ambulance staff member

“It doesn’t really matter who I am. I am speaking on behalf of many others on the frontline. This is about you, the public.

“I work on an emergency double-crewed ambulance and it’s my job to help people and give them the best treatment.

“At the end of March this year, I started getting a sore throat and a bit of a cough.  Not continuous, but there all the same. I thought it was most probably from the surgical masks we wear.

“Then the cough became more frequent. I'd been working with two different crew mates over my last run of shifts, so I phoned them.  One had tonsillitis and the other had bronchitis. So, I thought I’d be alright as it will probably just be from the masks or a similar infection to what the crew had.

“After a day the cough became all but continuous, my throat really sore, plus I had gained a really bad headache and my urine had turned black, even though I was drinking a fair amount of water. I then started to feel hot and cold as if my temperature was spiking.

“Realisation set in that I was suffering with the symptoms of Coronavirus. 

“I started to think about how I contracted it; had I caught it from someone in a supermarket, or my family, or the patient who accidently coughed straight into my face.  I felt the vapour on my face.  I'll never know in reality, the virus is now known to lay around on surfaces for days, be spread by coughs, and by touch.  There are so many ways I could have got it.

“I immediately isolated and stopped going to work for fear of infecting others, but I began to worry about my family. My wife has a progressive heart disease and was already of off work for a couple of months due to a sudden heart issue. Our daughter also shared the same gene and I was so worried that I was going to infect them.

“I did not fit the typical pattern of those catching Coronavirus. I had worn the personal protective equipment (PPE) as I was supposed to. I asked patients and their families the questions I was supposed to.  But I had brought it into our house.

“Over the next six days, I don’t really remember what happened. I had a headache, dark urine, cough, sore throat, diarrhoea, vomiting, intermittent nose bleeds, rashes, swollen ankles, and hallucinations; and I could not get off the bed without getting totally out of breath.

“I began suffering with extreme fatigue, fever, riggors, and a temperature of more than 40 degrees. My daughter drove me to get a test and I vomited in the car on the way. The next day my results came back as positive and that evening, due to my symptoms worsening, my wife called an ambulance and the crew transported me to hospital.

“During the journey and whilst in hospital I received oxygen therapy.I spent just over a week there. I was lucky that I did not need to go onto the intensive care unit. For that I am extremely grateful.  I would not have known about it anyhow, however my family would have had to deal with it - the uncertainty - as well as not being allowed to visit.

“It was only when I was discharged from hospital that reality set in as to just how lucky I was to survive as I was admitted just at the right time as my condition was deteriorating.  

“Unfortunately, my wife also contacted the virus and was also taken into hospital. Our children were really worried. Mum had been taken into hospital, Dad was home but couldn't look after himself.  I had to rely on them completely.

“I had to live downstairs and it took me three weeks to be able to get up the stairs and when I managed the 13 steps to the top, I couldn't do anything but take really deep breaths and sit down. Over the six months that I was at home, the list is endless with the amount of side effects I suffered. They include:

  • A lack of energy to get out of bed and clean my teeth and no strength to lift my own toothbrush.
  • Long term memory loss which included not remembering my wedding or the birth of our children.
  • Irregular pulse.
  • circulation issues.
  • Extremely cold hands and feet which turned blue/ purple.
  • Confusion.
  • Fingers and toes became really painful.
  • Dry scaly skin, like a lizard on my feet, ankles, hands and head.
  • Swollen pitting edema on both ankles.
  • Intermittent nose bleeds.
  • Headaches.
  • Waking from sleep.
  • Stopped breathing - which really worried my family. 
  • Eye sight deterioration.
  • Loss of/ reduced field of vision. 
  • Mood swings.
  • Emotionally unstable (kept crying).
  • Depression. 
  • Sleeping between 14 to 16hours daily, just utterly fatigued.
  • Unable to take a deep breathe in; a shearing pain across my chest and a feeling of panic as I couldn't breathe. 

“In amongst all this my wife came home but our children now had two people to look after.  It should be the parents that look after the children!

“As the months progressed, I became better, however it seemed one step forward and two steps back. My wife and I couldn't manage two 12-hour shifts back to back. We had sudden onset of fatigue accompanied with breathing problems and memory issues.

“I am now back at work, although I still have poor circulation problems, my feet still change colour and are very cold, I still get short of breath, tired and have intermittent white fingers. My wife is better now as well, but we both suffer what is now being called 'Long Covid'.

“I’ve chose to write this because I come to work to make a difference to others and I cannot do that if others do not look after us as well.  I cannot stress enough to please wear your masks when we arrive on scene, keep your distance and wash your hands. When you call our health advisors, tell them if you are symptomatic or isolating on the phone so that we are aware when we arrive.

“If you look after us, we can continue to look after you.”

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