I was working in a dementia nursing home at the start of the pandemic

By Linda

When the lockdown started a few staff were told to shield and we were already short staffed so we were relying on agency staff to make up the numbers. There was a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment and confusion about how to use it. We were told that the manufacturer had increased the price of surgical masks by 1000% and we were to use it sparingly. We were told at one point that we couldn't wear masks and then told we could use a limited amount. 2 residents had been in hospital and were sent back without testing. We also started accepting new residents from hospital for end of life care. The symptoms started to show in several residents and then quickly spread.

I developed symptoms and tested positive on April 20th. Out of 20+ staff only 3 of us contracted the virus. We were off sick and our company would not furlough us and did not pay sickness pay so we were only entitled to SSP. I did not have the usual symptoms of fever and a cough but I had diarrhoea and nausea, terrible headaches which wouldn't shift, flu-like aches and pain all over my body, shortness of breath kidney pain and other symptoms. After 4 weeks I tested negative but didn't feel much better and then new symptoms started to develop. I could hardly walk, had constant pain all over, difficulty breathing, awful headaches and terrible fatigue. It is 14 weeks since I tested positive and I rarely have the energy to get out of bed and have symptoms nearly every day. On a good day I can walk to the corner shop but that wipes me out and I am back in bed the following day. It was difficult to get the doctors to take the symptoms seriously and lots of people believed we were exaggerating. Luckily it is now being recognised as a real condition as more people are sharing their experiences, especially on on-line support groups set up by other sufferers. I have just had some initial tests and my chest x-ray is showing some scarring on my lungs. I am waiting for further tests.

I have had to claim benefits to top up the SSP and am getting more into debt every day but can't possibly work as I can hardly get out of bed.

Everyday is different, some days are horrendous, others I just feel completely exhausted. There are many strange and scary symptoms that I have not mentioned like loss of coordination and balance, numbness or pins and needles all over, electric shock type feelings in all areas, a terrible metallic taste in my mouth, loss of appetite, brain fog – confusion, memory loss etc and many more. The anxiety about money, the insomnia, isolation and helplessness tend to worsen the physical symptoms. I am currently waiting for the new Covid Rehab Clinics to open as my doctor has referred me and I don't know when this nightmare is going to end.