Lindsay Hood, the Surbiton Home’s Administration Manager, was hospitalised after catching Covid. In the latest Royal Star & Garter Covid: Life on the frontline series, the mum of two tells of the full impact her illness had on her life, both physically and mentally, and why she wants her mum and dad to take the vaccine.
When the Home went into lockdown we put in measures to drive staff back and forth to ensure nobody had to use public transport. I volunteered to be one of the minibus drivers, which meant I was leaving home at 5.30am to pick up day staff, doing my work, and then dropping day staff back home and picking up night staff in the evening. I was getting home at around 10pm. My husband Steve had been furloughed, so he volunteered to do the night runs.
I remember one Friday feeling really tired. I thought the long hours were taking their toll. I was absolutely shattered and Helena, the Home Manager, said I should go home. I got into bed and I started to feel myself burn up. My temperature was 38.6ºC and I felt terrible. I had an awful night, and the temperature wasn’t budging even with paracetamol.
Royal Star & Garter arranged for a test for me, this was before they were readily available. When I got my positive result, I thought to myself: “This is like the flu, I’ll be over it in a couple of weeks.” I thought I’d stay off work for two weeks and be fine by the end of that. I called a cousin who is a paramedic assistant for advice. She said people seem to peak on Day 8 or 9, and then start to feel better.
But I’ve never felt so ill. It was like flu multiplied by ten, it was hideous. I tried to isolate myself from my husband and younger daughter as much as I could. I was sleeping a lot of the time and trying to keep on top of the temperature. But it wasn’t going down at all.
After about 10 days I wasn’t feeling better. I started vomiting, I couldn’t keep food down and I was drinking very little. Nothing could take the temperature away. Breathing was quite painful, my chest was sore, and I was coughing a lot.
This carried on for about three weeks and I got really scared. I was terrified of going to sleep because I didn’t think I would wake up. Steve was sleeping on the sofa in the lounge with me because he was worried about my breathing. I asked him to stay away from me, but he said he wouldn’t leave me. By now, the pain was indescribable. I felt like I’d been hit by a bus.
One morning, at around 4am, I was having a really bad night. I can remember just dozing in and out and not being very responsive. Steve called 111. I remember a voice trying to talk to me, but I didn’t have the energy to talk back. They said they’d send out an ambulance crew and when it arrived, two people got out in full PPE. They started examining me and hooked me up to an ECG, which came back as concerning. My oxygen sats (saturation levels) were very low and they said: “This is serious, you need to come to hospital.” I was bundled into an ambulance. I was on my own because nobody could come with me, and it was absolutely terrifying. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to go home again.
In A&E, they took me into a cubicle, and I was instantly hooked up to oxygen. They ran a whole heap of tests. I can’t remember how long I was in there for, they came back and said my chest X-ray was clear, but that I was extremely unwell and needed to be kept in for observation. They also pumped me full of antibiotics and fluids. When my sats improved they let me go home.
But the following day the hospital phoned back. A doctor said more test results had come back which were concerning and they needed to see me immediately and give me antibiotics. It turns out I’d developed a bacterial infection on top of Covid and I was borderline sepsis, so my kidneys had started failing. I had lines in both arms. I was in hospital for another 16-17 hours before they released me.
It was about a week later that I started to feel a little bit more human. I’d been unwell just over four weeks, and then it was such a long and frustrating road to recovery. It took a long time to get myself back on my feet and get my strength back.
It was tough not being at work, because I knew what was going on in the Home. Helena would call Steve every day when I was really unwell to get updates, and she was relaying what was happening. I felt absolutely useless and a tremendous guilt that I wasn’t there to do my bit. Eventually I began working from home a few hours a day and that made me feel better.
I had mixed emotions stepping back into the Home. I’d missed the residents and my colleagues tremendously, but I was terrified. I really struggled in the first few weeks. If too many people came into my office, I panicked, or I’d walk out. I didn’t want people close to me. I was also scared to leave the office and venture out into the Home. I could feel myself spiralling down. So Helena referred me for counselling. I’ve always been the sort of person who deals with their problems themselves. I don’t find talking to other people helpful, and it was difficult. But when I spoke to the therapist, she said it was PTSD, and a natural psychological reaction to nearly losing your life. The therapy has definitely helped.
I hope the vaccines are effective. I’ve always been pro-vaccine. My children were vaccinated when they were little, and I’ve never believed the conspiracy theories. I’m going to have mine when I can, and I would encourage everyone else too. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through, or what my family went through. Because this affects everybody, not just the person with the virus. My daughter, who no longer lives at home, didn’t know if she would ever see me again. My parents were beside themselves, everybody felt helpless. I’ve encouraged Mum and Dad to take the vaccine, and I’d encourage everyone at work too. It could have a huge impact on the Home. The more people that are vaccinated, the less risk there is for residents. We’re here for the residents and to keep them safe and well and if there’s anything we can do to improve that and aid that, I’m all for it.
I keep thinking in six months’ time it will all be better, but I thought back in April that by Christmas it would be over. I have a lot to look forward to. It’s my 50th birthday this year and we’re planning a holiday in Mauritius. I’m confident it will go ahead. Keep your fingers crossed for me!