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As a GP who’s overcome coronavirus, here’s what I want you to know

The only souvenir I thought I’d brought back from my recent trip to a conference in New York was a fridge magnet of the Statue of Liberty. Barely two days later, I realised I’d brought a lot more.

Tucked somewhere in my body was developing Covid-19, which began to show itself a few days after arriving back in the UK. The symptoms merged in with jet lag – tiredness, headache and feeling ‘out of it’.

The dry cough I put down to the long flight home and the effects of rebreathing cabin air. What I couldn’t dismiss, however, was the temperature – which was now above 102 degrees F. My coronavirus experience had started.

Over the next five days, I lived through this nasty illness, wishing it away but never feeling that it would finish me off. Soon after I started becoming unwell, I contacted 111 and went to a testing pod to have swabs taken. Then, I returned to bed, and that is where I stayed for days, rising only to use the bathroom.

The symptoms are as we have been told. Flu-like, with a temperature, dry cough and sore throat. I also had a vice-like headache, muscular chest pain from coughing, rigours and, when I did get out of bed, dizziness.

Five days into the illness, almost in the same order, the symptoms disappeared, leaving only an odd metallic taste in my mouth, nasal mucosal ulcers and intense fatigue. I didn’t need any heroic medicines or interventions.

Despite now being on the ‘other side’ of youth, I have no underlying health conditions and two paracetamol three times a day and lemonade was all I needed. I had God’s penicillin – chicken soup – which seemed to have a miraculous effect of bringing back my appetite.

I’m glad I’ve had it early, as I’m more than likely immune, and can now help my colleagues

My husband practised social distancing – we communicated via mobile phone and he wore the only protection he had – for his face that is – a Chelsea football scarf.

So, my experience. It was the worst illness I’ve ever had. Saying this, I have little to compare this with as other than childbirth (which isn’t an illness). I’m rarely unwell – have had the flu once, dental pain, and fractures over the years, but nothing more. It was painful, and frightening – the fear not because I thought I would die, but because being unwell is just that, frightening.

I’m glad I’ve had it early, as I’m more than likely immune, and can now help my colleagues.

What advice would I give, going forward?

Firstly, each family needs a plan as to what to do when we get sick. This should include calling each other regularly. Someone who is low risk might be a designated carer, to be with the sick person (even if covered by a mask and more than two metres away). This is better than being alone.

Secondly, remember that most people will be fine, even if infected. Our role as GPs is to help those who need more help to get it. We are good at this.

And finally, as GPs, we are crucial in calming the nervous brows of patients and communities.

I’m now out the other end, and very glad that very soon I’ll be back at work and helping my colleagues with the heavy lifting created by this crisis.

Dr Clare Gerada is the former chair of the RCGP, the co-chair of the NHS Assembly and a GP in Lambeth

Editor’s note – Pulse approached Dr Gerada to write something on this, with us believing it would be something that will help GPs. Dr Gerada graciously did this for us.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Roger Boyle 29 September, 2020 3:48 pm

Get well soon
I hope you are immune, although this assumption seems more nuanced than in other infections.
I hope you don’t have the dreadful fatigue that is reported

Reply moderated
Anthony Gould 1 October, 2020 4:10 am

I am glad you have recovered well
I have had the virus as well though much milder despite being an aging 64 year old male GP
I think I may have had a lower viral load due to imperfect PPE , that I am not as exhausted as usual only working half time these days or just a lack of Neanderthal DNA
Either way it seems the luck of the draw as a colleague locally was very ill indeed
Hopefully we are now immune and I am continuing donating recovery serum

Reply moderated
Colin Malcomson 1 October, 2020 11:10 am

I developed symptoms on 16th March and had 4 months of temperatures , breathlessness , brain fog and extreme fatigue. Now I’m left with extreme fatigue , intermittent breathlessness and sinus tachycardia. Occasional good days are a true delight , but be aware that for many patients this is a very , very slow recovery. ( and bloody boring too ! )

Reply moderated
victor Selwyn 7 October, 2020 12:19 pm

AS a GP I am not sure how unsafe I am. I am 75 and still working part-time although have not worked since March 2020. I work privately and my colleagues say in order to treat patients I must see and examine them as they are paying. We therefore cannot see patients on Zoom.I have AF and CKD Stage 3a I am getting bored and will soon need a revision programme!Can anyone suggest a part time job I can do using my 50 years of experience in General Practice (30 in NHS and 20 Privately) ?

Reply moderated
Anthony Gould 7 October, 2020 8:19 pm

I suggest no f2f work so telephone triage, either for OOH or GP practices or the Covid19 government phone line
In your situation I would not see patients F2f
it’s too risky for you

Reply moderated
John Renju 16 October, 2020 2:52 am

I have no idea why high risk category GPs in their 70s or over would risk their lives by continuing to work in clinical practice for now?

Reply moderated
Rupert Whitehead 16 October, 2020 1:26 pm

Not that I think it shouldn’t be or have a single objection, but more interested in quirks of algorithms, why is this still the most popular page on Pulse after seven months? Is it linked from somewhere else external that directs a lot of traffic?

Reply moderated
David Banner 26 January, 2021 12:48 pm

In 7 weeks time this story will have stayed on Pulse’s front web page for a year…..Is this a record??

Patrufini Duffy 17 February, 2021 11:15 pm

This is one epic story – still headlining. Nevertheless, let’s focus on uncovering what Waller-Kanani are storing up under the covid veil.