Coronavirus has revived old anxieties for Elle. Anxieties she had lived with for decades and of which she was relieved when her hepatitis C was cured in 2016. She shares her “corona experience” …
When I was cured of hepatitis C in 2016 with the new direct acting anti-viral pills, I was surprised at the enormous relief I felt when I was given the result: “hep C not detected”. A weight remarkably lifted off my shoulders immediately. Having lived with hepatitis C for more than 27 years, I had not realised the weight I had been carrying around—the of feeling being infectious.
I noticed this further when I had my first nose bleed after being cured. I’ve had nose bleeds from time to time but this one felt strangely freeing. I enjoyed being able to bleed and not worry about where the blood had dripped—bagging up my tissues, scrubbing my hands and the surfaces, to ensure no-one else would get my blood into their blood-stream somehow. Of course I still did all those things but not with the sense of urgency or worry.
I have really enjoyed that sense of freedom since being cured.
I can’t help feeling like I have swapped out one virus for another
Now with SARS-CoV-2 and the impact of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable community members, it is all reminiscent of when I had hep C.
I can’t help feeling like I have swapped out one virus for another. I don’t have COVID-19 (yet!) but I can’t help feeling those same infectious feelings and worry. Knowing that COVID-19 can transmits from one person to another while people feel well, really worries me.
Again, I am walking around feeling infectious. I am more aware of it with COVID-19 because we should all be aware of it. Practising social distancing, constantly washing my hands for the recommended 30 seconds, maniacally singing happy birthday (in my head) twice to ensure that all traces have been washed away, desperately trying not to touch my face, staying 1.5 metres away from everyone, not shaking hands, opening doors with my elbow. Observing surface protocol: wiping door handles and regularly used surfaces with 70% alcohol.
When I had hep C, even though it didn’t feel that way, the reality was that it was the responsibility of all to use universal precautions to prevent hep C transmission. With COVID-19 it is different. People should be responsible for themselves in that way but it goes further, it is about protecting others. It is about ensuring others don’t get it.
I read somewhere that epidemiologist had projected that between 20 and 80 per cent of Australians may get COVID-19, that 80 per cent of them will experience mild symptoms of COVID-19, 20 per cent will need hospitalisation and five per cent will end up in intensive care.
…I feel the weight heavily on my shoulders, to ensure people that I have contact with are not infected with COVID-19 as a result of that contact with me.
At the time of writing, the death rates for this virus had ranged from 0.7 per cent to 3.8 per cent*, depending on whether our health services can cope with the number of people needing care. Even at an optimistic one per cent mortality, the number of people in this country who might die from COVID-19 could be between 50,000 to 180,000.
With prevention being our best protection until an effective vaccination is approved (when? 6-9-12 months from now?), I feel the weight heavily on my shoulders, to ensure people that I have contact with are not infected with COVID-19 as a result of that contact with me.
There are many people in my life who are pre-disposed to complications and higher risk of death if they were to get COVID-19. One of the most important people in my life is aged 76, has hypertension, diabetes and a vitamin D deficiency, and is on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Five things that make it more likely that she will be at a higher risk of death from COVID-19. I don’t want her to get it and I don’t want her to be one of the people who ends up in critical care if the number of people in South Australia requiring health care exceeds the capability of our health care system.
I feel weighed down with trying to do all I can to drive down the rate of new infections but that’s ok, thankfully I had room on my shoulders because the weight of hep C had gone.
Need information and support?
If you are feeling anxious about COVID-19 call:
- National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, or the
- SA Health Mental Health Support Line on 1800 632 753 (8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week)
For online chat, information and resources visit:
- Head to Health – https://headtohealth.gov.au/covid-19-support/covid-19
- Lifeline Hello Neighbour! – https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/topics/mental-health-and-wellbeing-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak
- Beyond Blue Coronvirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service – https://coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au/
- National Mental Health Commission – https://www.mentalhealthcommission.gov.au/News/2020/March/COVID19-Mental-Health-Information
- University of Melbourne – https://services.unimelb.edu.au/counsel/resources/wellbeing/coronavirus-covid-19-managing-stress-and-anxiety