The ‘long tail’ of Covid-19: A television anchor describes the lingering after-effects of the virus
By Richard Quest
The cough has come back, without warning and seemingly for no reason; so has the fatigue. True, neither are as debilitating as when I had the actual virus, but they are back.
Like many others, I am now coming to realize that I am living and suffering from the long tail of Covid-19.
I got infected back in mid-April. The onset of symptoms came quickly. I suddenly noticed I was feeling very tired and I had a new cough. I got tested and the morning after I received a phone call from the medical center, I had tested positive for coronavirus.
The virus is like a tornado. When it lands, it swirls through the body, causing chaos, confusion, coughs, wreaking damage to each organ it touches. Some won’t survive its visit. For those that do, when it has gone, one surveys the damage to the human landscape and realizes it’s much greater than first thought. My symptoms were on the milder side: I never had breathing difficulties, or loss of sense or smell. I was wiped-out tired and I always had “the cough,” which has now returned.
The Covid cough is not like your usual cough-it-up deep cough (what doctors politely call a “productive cough.”) It is very distinctive. It is a dry, raspy, wheezy, cough. In my case, lots of short, expelling gasps of air, followed by a long, deep, chest-wrenching expiration cough, that has standers by wondering if I am going to keel over.
I have tested negative for the virus and positive for the antibodies, and my doctor says it won’t return. But there are days when I feel that it has.
I am also discovering new areas of damage: I have now become incredibly clumsy. I was never the most lissome person, no one ever called me graceful, but my clumsiness is off the chart. If I reach for a glass, or take something out of a cupboard, I will knock it, or drop it on the floor. I have tripped over the curb and gone flying. I fall over furniture. It is as if that part of my brain, which subconsciously adjusts hand and movement to obstacles it sees, isn’t working.
At times there’s a sense of mild confusion. The micro delay in a thought, the hesitation with a word. Nobody would notice but me.
My digestive system is peculiar, to say the least. It doesn’t matter whether I call them symptoms, traits, or wreckage — my body doesn’t feel quite right.
The doctors try to reassure me, saying, this will wear off, but they can’t tell me when. Last week was bad. The cough has been with me for days, I have been tired and needed to take naps. I tripped over the camera tripod then fell over a chair! I am concerned but not panicked, yet. This week already feels much better.
For those who have not had Covid, or witnessed the mess it leaves behind, again, I urge you, do whatever you can to avoid this tornado.
It will roar through the body — kill some on the way — injure all in its path — and then when you think “well, thank God that’s gone,” look around, the damage is strewn everywhere and will be with you long after the crisis has passed.
Covid is a tornado with a very long tail.
Richard Quest is the anchor of the CNN International business program, Quest Means Business.