“I felt like my number was up,” Covid-19 survivor from Derbyshire reveals following recovery
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“I was at home with my family, more than a week after my symptoms had started, and I remember saying to my husband ‘if you don’t get me some help now, I think I’m going to pass away.’
“He called 999 instantly.”
Stephanie, a singer from Dronfield in Derbyshire, was rushed to Chesterfield Royal Hospital earlier this month after paramedics arrived at her home to find her oxygen levels dangerously low and her temperature at nearly 41.
A swab for Covid-19 came back positive the next day.
“By then, I felt so ill, I was just relieved to be in hospital and getting help,” she says.
“The coronavirus ward was quite scary to be honest.
“There were four older women in there with me, and it just felt like God’s waiting room.
“I was sleeping a lot and felt awful.
“I knew people were dying from this, people who were young and fit, and I remember thinking, ‘well this is it for me.’
“It felt like my number was up.”
The mum-of-two had been self-isolating with her family, and treating her symptoms with fluids and paracetamol, as recommended by 111, since falling ill at the end of March.
“I remember just feeling really tired one day,” she recalls.
“My mouth was really dry, and no matter how much water I drank, it just got drier and drier until I was choking.
“That night I began to feel like I had a chill, and my skin was so sensitive.
“I didn’t know what was going on.
“Coronavirus seemed so unlikely as I’d been careful for weeks by then, washing and sanitising, and wearing a mask and gloves to go shopping, which I only did when necessary.”
After a number of days feeling poorly at home, Stephanie says she knew something was really wrong.
“Normally, if I get ill, I bounce back in a day or two,” she says.
“This was dragging on and on and I was feeling worse with every day that passed.
“I was starting to hallucinate. I was coughing and being sick, and I had stabbing pains all over my body.
“In the end I told my husband that he needed to get me some help.”
Once she was in the hospital, while her worried family waited at home for news, Stephanie started having chest pains, and staff struggled to bring her oxygen levels up and her temperature down.
“Everybody who works in the NHS is doing an incredible job, but the staff on the Elizabeth Ward, where I was treated, are just something else,” she says, shaking her head in awe.
“They put ice cubes into rubber gloves and hung them all over me to try and combat the temperature.
“Whatever they told me to do, I just did it, I was too weak to do anything else, and finally it started to work.”
And Stephanie describes the agonising process for medical staff, constantly sanitising and changing PPE, and wearing masks strapped tightly to their faces for 12 hour shifts.
“Every time they saw one of us on the ward, staff then had to move back to the sink, change out of everything, wash and sanitise, and put fresh gear on before going to the next person, and this was every single time.
“How they can bear to wear those masks on their faces for a full 12 hours I’ll never know.”
Stephanie reveals she was also approached and asked if she wanted to take part in a drugs trial, but refused as she was too frightened.
Finally, her oxygen levels and temperature regulated and, after a scary six days in hospital, most of it spent on oxygen support, she was allowed home.
“I hadn’t been able to see my family, which was really tough,” she said.
“I got home at 3pm on a Friday evening and all I wanted to do was sit outside with them all, and breathe in the fresh air.
“Luckily the weather was lovely, though I honestly don’t think I’d have cared if it was snowing.
“It was 11pm before I made it inside the house.”
But even after arriving home, Stephanie reveals the scary times weren’t over.
“Just two days ago, I started struggling to breathe,” she says.
“I called my GP who asked me to come in, and there she was in what looked like a spacesuit, talking to me from behind a screen.
“She found I still had a temperature, so put me on some antibiotics.”And while Stephanie says she now feels a million times better than she did, it’s clear she still has a long way to go.
“Three weeks after this all began, I’m feeling more like my old self, but I’m still really tired,” she says.
“My cough is still there, and my lungs feel like they’re the size of peas, I get winded just walking out to the driveway to clap for the NHS.
“I’m a singer, so I know how to breathe and breathe deep, but this has been such a scary experience, unlike anything I’ve ever been through.
“It’s so strange how it attacks your body in every way.”
And Stephanie - who is founder of Stars of The Future, and was awarded The Women of Sheffield’s ‘Marti Caine’ award for entertainment in 2019 - is no stranger to being a survivor.
After narrowly escaping a brain injury aged four, when she landed on a knitting needle which went through the roof of her mouth, and beating cancer back in 2007, she says she already had an appreciation for life’s beauty, but that this latest experience has amplified it.
“Nobody ever thinks it could happen to them, that they could be the person in that position, but coronavirus doesn’t have any rules,” she says.
“Since I got home, I’ve just wanted to be with my family, and my dogs, enjoying little things.
“When this terrible situation passes for us all - and it will - I think we’ll all have a new-found appreciation for the simple things.
“After this last few weeks, I know for a fact that I’ll never take life for granted again.”