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News Archive > General > It felt like fighting something that wanted me dead

It felt like fighting something that wanted me dead

By Natasha Swift 2nd December 2020

It felt like fighting something that wanted me dead

 A mother-of-three who was struck down with Covid while self-isolating in Mevagissey has issued a stark warning to anyone who thinks the virus won’t affect them. 
Helen Leon, 57, has spoken of her experience of living with so-called ‘long Covid’ in a bid to get people to follow public health guidance and stop the spread of coronavirus. 

Helen contracted Covid-19 at the end of March and eight months on is still suffering with chronic fatigue and breathlessness. 

She was diagnosed with asthma as a child, but it had become milder in adulthood and was easily manageable with just two inhalers a year.  
Since contracting the virus she has already worked her way through 13 inhalers and has had to put her career on hold due to asthma, fatigue and trauma.  
She now has a stark warning to anyone who thinks the virus won’t affect them and chooses to ignore the government guidance around masks, hand-washing and social-distancing.

 “This was the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had in my life,” said Helen, who has two grandchildren. “It felt like I was fighting something that just wanted me dead.  
“I have nightmares about it, about seeing the people I love in hospital on ventilators, about having to say goodbye to someone in an oxygen mask on video link.  
“This is reality for many people though and will continue to be if people carry on ignoring the rules. Put yourself in that position, is this what you want for your loved ones or someone else’s loved ones?  

“I would say to people ‘wear a mask, wash your hands and keep your distance’. You just don’t know what it can be like. It’s not just the elderly and the vulnerable who are at risk - this can be lethal for anyone.”  

Helen said her ordeal began on March 26 when she began to develop symptoms.  
Having heard about the threat posed to people with underlying health conditions, she had already chosen to self-isolate at a smallholding owned by her dad in Mevagissey. 
Her husband Glen, 64, has diabetes and is on stroke prevention medication.  
“I woke up at 5am with a high temperature on my front and back and I knew straight away that something was really wrong,” she said. “I was just glad I’d managed to get myself away from home in time to protect my husband.  

“I felt really frightened and isolated, but people were saying that I’d probably be ill for a week and that for most people it’s not that bad.”  

A local volunteer left paracetamol and supplies for Helen at the bottom of the driveway, and she was hopeful the illness might pass relatively quickly.  

“To start with it didn’t feel too bad – it’s a slow starter,” said Helen, who has three grown-up children, Daniel, 30, Zachary, 28, and Catherine, 27.  

“Then I started to feel feverish at night and would feel breathless, like the bottom of my lungs were filling up. About five days in I was having cytokine storms when the immune system goes into overdrive.  

“It was horrific and intensely frightening. It felt like I was fighting to survive.”  
By Easter Monday Helen found herself barely able to breathe and rang 111, was assessed and an ambulance was sent out. 

“I knew I was in trouble; it was incredibly scary,” she said. “I was asked to make a call to my family at 1am in case I had to go into ICU and that was a really horrible moment.”  
Luckily her condition began to improve, and she did not need to be admitted to hospital, which came as a huge relief.  

Having fought the virus alone for three weeks, she decided to head home for an emotional –and socially-distanced - reunion with her husband.  

“It was lovely to be home, but I just didn’t get better,” said Helen. “I’ve never been ill like that in my life. I could barely walk. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why I was so ill.”  

The asthma and fatigue meant she struggled to walk around her local park and she often felt close to collapse. On April 18 she had to call 111 again, and again an ambulance was sent out following an assessment.  

Her doctor told her she may be suffering with a form of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and she began undergoing counselling.  

“Having Covid-19 and now long Covid has had a huge effect on my life,” she said. “This virus is not something that you want to give to people. 

“My husband has been wonderful, and my family have been brilliant but to see the effect on them has been very hard. To see my eldest son, who is a toughie, crying down the phone because he was so upset by what he was seeing was a very hard moment. To have my daughter helping me with chest percussion to ease lung congestion, and my second son so worried for me and for his dad has been so hard. They are all being so careful around others and I am so proud of them. 

“Now with a vaccine on the horizon there’s hope that we won’t have to live like this forever but in the meantime it’s about being careful and loving and looking after each other.  
“Anyone who thinks this virus isn’t serious is mistaken; it can affect anybody, and it’s very easily transmitted. If you really care about the people around, you then be very careful about transmission and do everything you are being asked to do. We need to get this virus under control as it’s having a horrible effect on a lot of people.” 

By Natasha Swift 2nd December 2020

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