‘The first symptom I noticed was a lack of smell’

Covid Stories: Emergency department nurse describes her experience of contracting coronavirus

‘I can’t wait to get back to work when I’m cleared by Occupational Health to return.’‘I can’t wait to get back to work when I’m cleared by Occupational Health to return

‘I can’t wait to get back to work when I’m cleared by Occupational Health to return.’‘I can’t wait to get back to work when I’m cleared by Occupational Health to return

 

The first symptom I noticed on waking up the morning of Thursday April 2nd was a lack of smell. I wasn’t in work at the time, and proceeded to try smell everything in the house, from scented candles to strong cheese to fresh garlic. I knew there was also something unusual when my strong morning coffee tasted like hot water.

This is also known as anosmia, the medical term for loss of the sense of smell. I had never experienced it before. I felt well otherwise. I had none of the other Covid-19 symptoms reported to look out for: fever, cough or shortness of breath.

I contacted the hospital’s occupational health department. I was due in work that night and did not want to inadvertently pass anything on to patients or staff. Although I technically did not meet the criteria for testing with one symptom, occupational health agreed as a frontline emergency worker, I needed to be tested.

I felt well, so I drove myself in to get tested in the hospital. I drove into the dedicated “Pod” parking space and was swabbed from my car. It was a shock to get a phone call less than 12 hours later to be told I was confirmed positive for Covid-19.

My dealings with the hospital, the HSE and public health has been extremely efficient and positive. Everything from swabbing to diagnosis to communication has been so prompt and well organised. Every phone call included kind words, and each person I dealt with wished me well in my recovery and hoped that I would be back on the frontline soon.

Healthcare workers: Share your experiences of tackling coronavirus

A loss of smell is not one of the symptoms listed on the HSE website. However, there is growing evidence that loss of smell may be a “marker” for Covid-19. I was lucky in that I had seen recent research articles shared on Twitter, and heard from colleagues that a loss of smell alone was considered significant. Please be mindful of this symptom in yourself or those presenting with it.

As I continue my 14 days of isolation, I still can’t smell or taste. With that comes a loss of appetite, but I feel fortunate as I have experienced no other symptoms.

I can’t wait to get back to work when I’m cleared by Occupational Health to return, although I never imagined myself working in the middle of a pandemic. This is why I chose nursing, and the specialty of emergency. I continue to think of every patient, healthcare worker and family affected by this. To everyone that is sacrificing so much, thank you.

We need to stay home to keep flattening the curve, especially in healthcare settings where a high percentage of confirmed cases are healthcare workers. We need to continue to practice physical distancing in our work environments, hand hygiene, proper “donning and doffing” of PPE and reporting any symptoms promptly. People should continue to adhere to the hygiene and social distancing measures in place.

For anyone presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) with covid or non covid symptoms, you will be treated by the most committed and expert team of people. Please do not feel afraid in presenting to ED, and do not delay in seeking urgent medical attention with symptoms of chest pain or stroke. We are set up to treat covid and non covid patients in dedicated areas.

To my colleagues that I am so fortunate to work with - I can’t wait to rejoin you on the front line in the fight against Covid-19. To every healthcare worker in every area across Ireland - you should be proud of your competence, dedication and most of all your resilience. Thank you for the ongoing support, availability and professionalism in caring for and protecting patients.

It is so important that we continue to support one another over the coming period. Be safe, be kind and continue to look out for one another.

If you are a healthcare worker on the front lines, you can share your experience of the Covid-19 crisis here

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