Introduction by Hampus Eckerman: My mother wrote an opinion piece for one of our Swedish newspapers about her bout with the corona virus.
I’m getting kind of scared for all older fans out there, in Sweden there’s a lot of older people still going outside, shopping as usual, because they feel so healthy, so this article hopefully could scare some people to be more careful.
People of My Generation – Beware The Corona Virus Like The Plague!
- First published as an opinion piece in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, March 29, 2020.
By Ingrid Eckerman: “I’m not scared – I’m healthy!”, say people from my generation and continues to socialize.
I’m also healthy, but I got the corona anyway. I didn’t die. I didn’t have to stay in intensive care for two months. I haven’t even had a high fever. Thus, a rather mild infection.
For ten days, the temperature has fluctuated around 38 degrees Celsius (100F). I have slept around 20 hours a day. I pull myself up on the bedside, waiting for the world to stop. Need support to be able to get up, taking hold in the furniture. I walk like a cripple – the hip part of my body seems to have crumpled. After a few steps comes the breathlessness, perhaps a bout of coughing. My body has aged 20 years.
Dressing is for me a great effort that requires an immediate return to bed. With pepping and prepping, I get my body to accept some basic food, a fruit, some ice cream, for pure survival purpose.
Everything has become heavy. The laptop must be carried with two hands. How should I be able to water the flowers? Getting up from the chair requires extra effort. Hair falls off in tufts.
Now on the twelfth day I begin to see the light in the tunnel. The temperature drops slowly, I’m not as deathly tired. I have felt hunger. Managed to get through both a shower and changing the bed sheets.
But I dare not take out anything in advance. It feels like there has been a war in my body, and the battle is not over yet. There is some small virus behind the sternum waiting for a weakness in my immune system. There is a risk of setbacks.
Now comes the convalescence, the recovery, built up during quarantine to be safe and infection-free before I meet others.
I have not been this sick since I as a child had the potentially deadly diseases measles, mumps and whooping cough. Being home 1-2 weeks extra from school was a matter of course.
Convalescence meant rest and nutritious food. Today, careful rehabilitation is being added. Successfully increasing physical activity, from walking in the apartment to walking in the garden. Return to regular sleeping and meal times.
From freedom of fever, I expect at least two weeks for recovery. This means a total disease period of at least one month. It is too early to say if I am getting any residual symptoms.
Getting corona at 70+ does not mean a few days of fever and then return to healthy as usual. Even if you do not become seriously ill, the illness will take a heavy toll on your body. We have weakened immune systems compared to younger people – we cannot count on a mild illness.
Even you who believe that you are so old that it does not matter if you die you have to think carefully. You must make it clear to relatives and healthcare that you do not want to receive anything but home care – that you refrain from intensive care that allows you to survive for yet some time.
Ingrid Eckerman, 78, MD, retired General Practitioneer in Stockholm, Sweden.
Comments from Ingrid regarding the piece:
1. No, I was never tested. As I didn’t get any breathing difficulties while lying down at rest, I was recommended by the ambulance staff to stay at home. Only those who have to stay in hospitals are tested in Sweden, as the capacity isn’t high enough to test the population as a whole. But I find it hard to imagine any more likely diagnoses.
2. I know nothing about whether I get immunity. Normally, there is flu and cold viruses around us in society, and we get a boost to our resistance every now and then. It helps us to maintain immunity. But this is a new virus that my body does not recognize at all. Maybe I need to get infected several times before I have a lasting immunity.