Today marks the fifth day of feeling very unwell, and the second day since I tested positive for Covid. It feels like much longer than that of course, as I can no longer remember how I felt when I was still ‘okay’. From the skewed perspective of illness and lack of sleep, it seems I have always felt like this, not just for less than one week.
Covid seems to affect people in different ways, and at different levels of severity. So I have come to think of it as ‘My’ Covid. It has a personality, a sense of purpose, and seems to speak to me with an accent similar to that of the late David Niven. So I call it Niven-Covid.
There are definite rules.
I must not be allowed to sleep.
I must not be allowed to recline comfortably.
I must not be allowed to enjoy a meal.
I must not be allowed to relish a refreshing drink.
I must not be allowed to concentrate on anything, such as enjoying a film or reading a book.
I must feel as if I have molten lava tricking down my throat at all times.
I must pull all the muscles in my chest and stomach with incessant coughing day and night.
I must feel too hot under the bedclothes, and too cold outside of them.
Everything I try to drink or eat has to taste like a rusty tin can.
Niven-Covid is firm about those rules, and woe betide you ignore them. Try lying down in bed like a normal person, and seconds later you will be in a paroxysm of coughing that is violent enough to make you get out of bed and lean against the wall. So you sit in the bed, legs crossed, covers drawn around you to stay warm. That way, you can still breathe.
Trouble is, you eventually get so tired that you slide down into the bed. Then you can almost see that Niven-smile as you feel like you are under a lake of warm water that is invading your lungs as you fling bedcovers off in a panic.
How much internal fluid can one elderly human man produce? I can’t give you a measurement, but I can tell you it is a lot. Much more than you might expect. Enough to refill my lungs every 120 seconds or so. Enough to make my eyes stream for sixteen hours non-stop. Enough to fill my mouth with water twenty times an hour until I want to run screaming out of the house into the constant rain that has been falling outside for days on end.
Lack of sleep can make you act strangely after a while. You start to imagine that you are actually recovered. There hasn’t been a Cough-Splutter-Choke moment for at least six minutes. Maybe I’m better? Now I can actually stretch out and lie down. Even as my legs move under the duvet, and I contemplate the luxury of real rest, I hear the voice of the actor whispering in my ear.
“Come now, Pete. Lying down? Really? I’m still here you know. Ignore me at your peril”.