How would it feel to be unwell all of the time? Not something I had considered even though I care for unwell people all of the time. I felt that I was in good health until my recent bout of COVID. I am not used to feeling unwell and I have not liked it. Recovering from COVID I have felt exhausted and it has made a small voice inside me ask if I will recover or not? Will I feel better again? Can I go back to how I was before? Can I still do as much as I used to? Will I ever feel like myself again? My intellect knows I will recover soon. My emotions have not been so sure.
What would it feel like to have an incurable illness? To suffer from a condition that will not go away. Something you will be stuck with for the rest of your life. You will feel more and more unwell as time continues to flow on. How would it feel to be in such a situation? It will not go away, it will be something that becomes part of your life for the rest of your life. There is no escape from this situation for you. This is how you will be for the rest of your life.
No fix is possible, no change in the situation you are in. You are stuck in the prison of your own body. Things will never be the same again. You may not be able to do whatever you did in the past. How will this be for your mind? How can you handle this emotionally? What can you do to cope with this? How can you continue with your life? Nothing will ever be the same again. How can we do this? To be in such a vulnerable position will be a true test of resilience. A shock to the system. Let’s see what happens.
I tried to continue writing daily posts even during my COVID infection. I failed.
I wanted to think my way through brain fog. It didn’t work.
After three days of being unwell, I thought the fourth day would be better. It wasn’t.
Being sick sucks. How do my patients cope with it?
I found myself unable to do anything on day 4 of my COVID experience. My brain had slowed down and it felt like I was swimming through treacle the whole day. I stopped writing and didn’t do any reading. I didn’t watch anything, my head was too full of mist. My mind was clouded and refused to compute.
The treacle started to dissolve and I found my way to the keyboard again. I haven’t felt like myself for over a week.
At least it stopped raining today. Sunshine returned to evaporate the vapours in my head.
My little coronavirus rock band continue their tour of my body. They wrapped up their sold-out concert in my throat and the music was so loud my ears are still stinging. Today’s destination was my lumbar spine and they played their achy breaky music with gusto. No matter how often I stretched throughout the day the music of the band drowned out all other signals.
I have to be honest I am sick of all the merchandise the band brings along to each venue they play at. The congested stands of my nasal sinuses couldn’t stand the pressure any longer. The burning man set up in my throat yesterday is still smouldering and ready to reignite at a moment’s notice. The worn-out muscle fibres evidence that this band of players have worn out their welcome.
The uncertainty of each day of illness. Will I feel better when I wake up again? Will I be in less pain than yesterday? These are questions I am considering each day and are they similar to what my patients must ask themselves? I’ve only been unwell for a few days but my compassion for those who suffer from chronic illnesses is growing.
Maybe tomorrow the band will head down to my feet and then it will be my pleasure to kick them out of my body. There will be no request for an encore.
New day, new symptoms. The whole body aches and pains subsided today which was a relief. Just as I was lulled into a sense of lessening unwellness, something else arrived to knock that idea out. A sore throat the likes of which I had not experienced since I had my tonsils taken out as an adult came to say hello. I would describe it as swallowing rusty liquid razor wire. It was such a lovely greeting that with each swallow I was overwhelmed with emotions and tears came to my eyes. I threw all the medications I had at it, and then some, but nothing worked apart from lying down in the foetal position, but that didn’t bring any relief. Or was I lying down in the recovery position? Probably not as I do not feel recovered as of yet.
I was hungry and had to eat through each painful mouthful. The dry crusty parts of the bread were like sandpaper on my disease-ravaged throat. I winced and grimaced through each gulp of food. My appetite had returned but had to contend with the pain barrier. I persisted and after a few minutes, the pain started to abate. If the drugs don’t work make your own. As a response to the pain, my body produced endogenous opioids, bringing relief to my agonised throat. The second half of the meal was swallowed with relative ease.
Both of my Latissimus dorsi, those big wing-like muscles on the sides of our backs, were aching today as if I’d had a huge workout yesterday, which I hadn’t. My pectorals on the opposite side of the lats also felt similar. I had not done any heavy lifting at all but had done some coughing yesterday. Curious symptoms continue to be collected. What will happen tomorrow?
Two stripes on the RAT test confirmed my suspicions, after a night of fevers and body aches. COVID positive. Painful muscles and joints, headache and some hyperalgesia.
I make it a habit to expose myself to some suffering daily with 30 seconds of a cold shower each morning to wake me up. Twice a week I go and train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Through this sport, I have learnt to keep calm in uncomfortable situations. Fighting against painful joint locks and against choking attempts has built my resilience.
Today I feel that I have overdosed on pain, which has persisted despite my taking Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. Putting up with pain is exhausting which I had some inkling of from the many patients I have cared for. A doctor needs to have some suffering experience to understand what their patients are going through, but today’s lesson has been a bit too long and unending.
I gently knocked on the door and then poked my head around the corner. I paused briefly before walking in and saw him sitting there holding his wife’s hand. He bent down and talked gently into her ear. They had only been married for 62 years, and had been together as a couple much longer. She had looked after him well according to his daughter, he had always been treated like a king. In recent years Dementia had meant that he had needed more care than ever. His queen kept him in line but as her health deteriorated she could not keep up with him.
She had lived with her daughter, son-in-law and had practically raised their children. The grandchildren were emotionally close to her and had spent six to eight weeks with her over the Christmas break before heading back to their overseas-based lives. Since her cancer diagnosis seven months ago, she had been cared for by her youngest daughter. She had to keep a close eye on her husband, as he was a flight risk. At times he didn’t even recognise her as she had recently lost a lot of weight. He would ask, “Who is the nice old lady?” With a few prompts he could be reorientated to the love of his life.
He was never alone when he was young, his sister would always be with him. They started off their friendship in the womb but didn’t really see each other for the first time until they came out into the light. Ah, that’s what you look like, quite similar to me, but different. I’m the oldest out of us two, even if it is only five minutes between us. The eldest is entitled to greater respect. Their siblings suddenly had two more siblings to make up the family, a little boy and a little girl.
They went to the same schools all the way through primary, intermediate and high schools, and it was only in university that their paths diverged. Ending up in different careers and then meeting their partners, always maintaining the bond of their twin-ship even across thousands of miles of ocean. The next generation would also have multiple births, he and his wife had a set of twins but unfortunately their little youngest did not survive. One of their biggest tragedies, the death of a child, so against the natural order of life. Life had to move on, they had the rest of their children to bring up. Life was busy with work, family was always emphasised as being the most important.
Children grow up so fast, and theirs became useful additions to society, good people that he had guided to adulthood. He was proud of them all, and then the grandchildren arrived to make a good life even better. Lovely young kids that enjoyed hanging out with Grandpa and Grandma, also lovely that at the end of the day they could be given back to their parents. Grandparents are there to provide good fun, but not to be the unpaid caregivers was their policy. It had worked so far. Their overseas daughter video-called them, they hadn’t seen her in person due to the effects of Covid over the past two years. She couldn’t contain her smile, she glowed when they talked to her. “Mum, dad I’m pregnant, it’s going to be twins!” Continuing the family tradition into the next generation. Things were really good.
This survey explores the important social, occupational and mental health effects experienced by frontline health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. As the pandemic has changed our social and work environments in many different ways, we want to hear the experiences of both frontline health workers who have and have not worked directly with people with COVID-19.
We will examine factors that promote good mental health and wellbeing, as well as risk factors for poorer mental health. Your input will inform recommendations to healthcare organisations and other professional bodies.
This study focuses on the experiences of medical, nursing, allied health, clinical scientists/physiologists/technicians, healthcare students and clerical staff who are working in the following frontline areas:
Hospital Aged Care
People working in other frontline health areas (such as medical or surgical areas) are also welcome to take part.
You do not need to have worked directly with people with COVID-19 to participate, as we would like to hear from all frontline health workers.