Lupus sufferer Mel urges others at high risk not to panic after beating Covid-19

Mel Garnett explains in a special guest column for Celebrate:MK how she has overcome coronavirus despite suffering from a serious pre-existing illness…

Hi, I’m Mel and I’m not exactly your average, healthy 31-year-old. I have a condition called Lupus or SLE which means that I am in the high risk category due to the immunosuppressive medication I’m on.

I have suppressive infusions once a year, take another immunosuppressant daily, and take daily steroids.

My life is pretty normal as I work, I go to the gym and I go away – generally speaking I’m healthy, given my condition.

I went away skiing to Andorra on the 11th March and, at that point in time Covid-19 was in the news, but we weren’t too worried about it. However, two days into our holiday, Andorra shut the ski resorts – that is when my cough began.

I thought it was because I’d been drinking, staying up late and a month prior I’d had a chest infection. We made it home and apart from my cough I felt OK.

During the week I had some strange sensations in my ears and nose, similar to if it was really cold outside when it wasn’t. I felt a bit odd, but still thought it was to do with a chest infection.

On Thursday, I spoke with my doctors and they said as I have no temperature it must be the chest infection returning, and gave me some antibiotics.

On Saturday all was well until I noticed that I could not smell or taste anything. Stood by a burning fire, I could not smell a thing. That evening my friend sent me a news story saying that two thirds of Covid-19 patients have no smell or taste.

On Sunday I woke up and that’s when it hit me, I felt like I had been run over. I was so tired, felt sick, couldn’t eat and had zero energy. I was also starting to get breathless.

On Sunday night I slept for 12 hours and when I woke up on Monday morning I could barely move – that’s when I knew it was serious.

I was exhausted, I ached, I was breathless, I was wheezy and my coughing was out of control, but I had no temperature so my GP surgery still thought it was a chest infection.

I felt the same on Tuesday so my rheumatologist sent me to be tested for Covid-19 at hospital. To avoid putting others at risk I had to drive myself.

After talking to me about my symptoms, masking me up and swabbing me (nose and throat), they sent me back home.

Wednesday, I woke up and felt much the same as the previous two days. At 12pm I got the call from the hospital to say I had tested positive for Covid-19. To me this was a relief, not only to know why I’d been so ill but also because I thought I’m through the worst of it.

I thought if I’m high risk and can beat it with all of my immune problems, then most people can. I am now almost back to normal. My chest pain has subsided but I’m still sore around my ribs and I get tired easily.

I am still breathless when doing a lot, but each day is easier as I continue to be careful and isolate.

I want to say to those out there feeling anxious about their pre-existing illnesses, who are convinced they will be hospitalised if they fall victim of the virus, I am living proof that our bodies are amazing things – don’t always expect the worst.

Yes, isolate and protect yourself as much as possible, but try not to be scared. Believe in your body, take vitamins, eat well and help your immune system to fight this.

This feature was published in the May/June 2020 issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link.

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