‘This really hurts’ Bri­tons with virus symp­toms urge peo­ple to take ill­ness se­ri­ously

He went from be­ing a reg­u­lar gym-goer to strug­gling to sit up­right

The Guardian - - News Coronaviru­s - Andy Hard­wick, 51 Jes­sica Mur­ray

Gasp­ing for breath and strug­gling to speak, Andy Hard­wick can barely keep his head up­right as he de­scribes the coro­n­avirus symp­toms he is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

The 51-year-old is nor­mally fit and healthy, vis­it­ing the gym at least three times a week and suf­fer­ing from asthma only oc­ca­sion­ally. But he has been com­pletely floored by Covid-19, and his friends and fam­ily urged him to make a video to show how se­ri­ous the ill­ness can be.

“My spine hurts, my back hurts, my neck hurts. You don’t want to talk, you get short­ness of breath if you move around, and you don’t want to lift your head off a pil­low,” Hard­wick ex­plained in the video, which has been shared on Face­book more than 37,000 times.

In it, he lies back in a grey hoodie, fighting to keep his eyes open as he talks in short bursts to the cam­era. “It does come in waves, you will feel slight re­lief some­times, then it will go … This really hurts, it’s like noth­ing I’ve ever had be­fore, I wouldn’t wish it on my en­emy.”

Ac­cord­ing to Hard­wick’s wife, Ni­cola, friends have said they didn’t even recog­nise Andy in the video. “It was like every­thing had just left him, all the en­ergy,” she said.

Hard­wick, a fa­ther of two from Wick­ford, Es­sex, said the ill­ness started last Fri­day with a “very dry cough”, which made his throat sore. “You start to feel gen­er­ally crappy and then you’ll find your lungs will tighten,” he de­scribed.

He wasn’t suf­fer­ing from a fever ini­tially, so he went to bed ex­pect­ing the symp­toms to pass. How­ever, he woke up a few hours later with a tem­per­a­ture, un­able to breathe prop­erly. “[I was] sweaty, clammy but freez­ing – I couldn’t get warm and I had a rag­ing thirst.”

Af­ter call­ing 111, he was as­sessed by a doc­tor over the phone who said his symp­toms sug­gested he did have Covid-19, and he was in­structed to call back if his breath­ing de­te­ri­o­rated and he was in need of hos­pi­tal treat­ment.

Although parac­eta­mol helped to re­duce his tem­per­a­ture, his pre­ven­ta­tive asthma pump did lit­tle to help his breath­ing, he said.

‘This really hurts, it’s like noth­ing I’ve ever had be­fore, I wouldn’t wish it on my en­emy’

“If you get the cough, it’s very painful, and if you feel the need to laugh, don’t, be­cause it’s very painful.”

His fam­ily think he prob­a­bly picked up the virus while trav­el­ling to Lon­don, where he works as head of re­pairs and op­er­a­tions at Cam­den coun­cil, although he had been work­ing from home since 18 March.

On Wed­nes­day morn­ing, Ni­cola said Andy’s state had im­proved and he was start­ing to breathe more eas­ily, a wel­come devel­op­ment af­ter days of watch­ing her hus­band suf­fer. “It is hard be­cause you just want to give him a hug and you can’t. I must ad­mit I was very scared with the way he was,” she said.

She said she never ex­pected the video to go vi­ral, but is glad it has made an im­pact, hav­ing re­ceived many mes­sages from peo­ple say­ing they’re go­ing to change their be­hav­iour as a re­sult. “You do think you’re in­vin­ci­ble. You think: ‘Oh, if I get it, I’ll be ok, I’m fit.’ But this virus doesn’t really care whether you’re fit or young or old,” Ni­cola said.

“Ev­ery­one seems to get [the virus] dif­fer­ent. Some get it mild, some get it very strong, some are hos­pi­talised, and that’s the scary part, not know­ing how you are go­ing to be when you get it.”

The video con­cludes with Hard­wick’s plea to the gen­eral pub­lic. “Please stay away from each other, re­spect each other. If our par­ents or grand­par­ents get this, and they’re vul­ner­a­ble or not fit, I’d hate to think what it will do to them. They will be­come a statis­tic. Stay safe.”

“She was re­fus­ing to go to hos­pi­tal or get any doc­tors, be­cause she had had such bad ex­pe­ri­ences be­fore, but by Tues­day she was taken in an am­bu­lance and swabbed [for a coro­n­avirus test] that day.”

Self-iso­lat­ing at home with her five-year-old son, Ashley had no choice but to sol­dier on. “I was tak­ing some parac­eta­mol and try­ing to get on with it really,” she re­mem­bers. “It felt like there was some­thing in there . All the time my body was feel­ing that it was fighting some­thing off but I didn’t know what.”

Her symp­toms came and went, she lost her ap­petite, but things were never so se­vere that she felt un­able to cope. Even with her son to look af­ter, she was able to con­tinue work­ing from home.

In any other year, Ashley might have writ­ten off such an ill­ness as a sea­sonal bug – were it not for her friend’s con­di­tion. “It made me think: shit, that’s prob­a­bly what I’ve had over the last week, with­out it be­ing con­firmed.” As the week wore on and Ashley re­cov­ered, her friend – who asked not to be named – de­te­ri­o­rated. On Mon­day she was moved to in­ten­sive care. Seven days af­ter she was swabbed, her coro­n­avirus test came back pos­i­tive.

What is most trou­bling for Ashley is the thought that she might have spread the virus. “It’s hor­ri­ble, it’s a hor­ri­ble thought, which is why I iso­lated im­me­di­ately. It’s been hor­ri­ble think­ing I have po­ten­tially given that to my friend and she’s in the ICU – and also who else have I given it to? I don’t know.”

Ashley works with fam­i­lies on the edge of care. She uses pub­lic trans­port, she is in and out of peo­ple’s homes, she works in schools. In the week she first be­gan to suf­fer symp­toms, she had been in a GP’s surgery wait­ing room sup­port­ing a young per­son. She doesn’t know where she caught it nor, more cru­cially, where she may have spread it.

Last week, as the UK au­thor­i­ties is­sued ever more ur­gent ad­vice to be­gin phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing and take care over hy­giene, Ashley – fol­low­ing de­vel­op­ments from her self-quarantine – was fu­ri­ous to see peo­ple flout­ing the rules. She recorded a video and posted it to Face­book to urge friends to fol­low the ad­vice. “It’s crazy. It’s ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fy­ing,” she says. “Have they not seen what’s go­ing on in Italy? Stop fuck­ing about and stay at home.”

On Tues­day night, Ashley’s friend was moved out of in­ten­sive care. She is now be­gin­ning to re­cover.

‘It’s been hor­ri­ble think­ing I have po­ten­tially given [the virus] to my friend and she’s in the ICU’ Sarah Ashley Sus­pected coro­n­avirus pa­tient

PHO­TO­GRAPH: NI­COLA HARD­WICK/FACE­BOOK

▲ Andy Hard­wick, who is usually fit and healthy, said the symp­toms were like noth­ing he had ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore

PHO­TO­GRAPH: SARAH ASHLEY/FACE­BOOK

▼ Sarah Ashley self-iso­lated at home with her five-year-old son and was able to cope with the worst symp­toms

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