'Coronavirus is horrible, but I've been overwhelmed by my community's response'

Naomi Greenaway's diary on what it's like to have (suspected) coronavirus

Naomi Greenaway
Naomi Greenaway Credit: Christopher Pledger

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程When Naomi Greenaway began to feel unwell one evening, she went to sleep wondering the worst - could she have coronavirus? It had only been six weeks since the news of the virus spreading had truly begun, yet for The Telegraph's Deputy Editor of Stella magazine, a strange feeling had started to settle in. 

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程A few days later, breaking out into a temperature and a cough, she suspects it may be covid-19. How did her symptoms progress? Below, Naomi documents what it felt like and why she believes she may be recovering from the dreaded disease.

Day 1: Tuesday 17 March

Seven hours ago, as I closed my eyes for the night, I felt a little tickle in my throat. Overnight that tickle has pervaded every inch of body and now feels more like a powerful punch. I’m hot and clammy, my eyes are heavy and if you told me that an elephant had escaped from the zoo and been sleeping on top of me all night, I wouldn’t find it too hard to believe. Every last smidgen of energy has been squeezed out of my body. With official figures under 2,000, I find it unlikely I actually have THE virus. But family isolation – and chaos - begin.

I spend most of the day in and out of sleep and am fed and watered at my bedside by my husband. With the kids to deal with, a business to run and me to worry about, his mettle is being seriously tested, but his performance is medal-worthy. Meanwhile, my temperature is soaring. The recommended dose of paracetamol just isn’t getting under my skin, but I’ve read the warnings about ibuprofen, so I stick with the one remedy I have. I try to cool myself down with a flannel and bucket of ice water but I’m achy and uncomfortable and nothing seems to help. 

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程It was exactly six weeks ago when I was standing at a Telegraph news conference seeing the first pictures of beds being prepared for patients in China. It’s surreal to think how quickly that foreign news has become my reality.

Day 2: Wednesday 18 March

I wake up exhausted and drift in and out of sleep. By mid-afternoon, I’ve developed a cough and it seems increasingly likely that this is IT. I think back to all the people I’ve seen over the last week or so with a horrible sense of guilt. I worry about my parents, who are both over 70, my mother-in-law, who is having to delay an operation due to this crisis, and everyone in between.

I tell some close friends and email my colleagues and include an apology. I wonder if this is how it feels to tell your exes you have an STI? Of course, the replies are only of concern and sympathy. So probably not. My daughter looks droopy and has come down with a temperature too and I feel so very thankful that this awful virus isn’t dangerous for children. How would we cope with that?

Every time I look at my phone there are hundreds of messages and jokes on my WhatsApp groups. ‘Our grandparents were sent to war. We’re being asked to sit on the couch. You can do this!’ reads one, which particularly tickles me. In truth, we are at war, only we can’t see the bullets, but it feels good to turn worry into laughter. And I’m not alone in that. The international coping mechanism seems to be humour.

From upstairs in bed, I stress about the kids not doing enough work. My 11-year-old is now asleep in bed, but my 10-year-old son has barely come up from the screen. I try not to beat myself up about two days of lost education. Thankfully, my youngest has spent the day doing art and craft, which at least feels slightly less brain-rotting. She has painted a rainbow to display in the window and brighten other children’s walks through the neighbourhood, a lovely mood-boosting initiative that’s sweeping the country.

By evening, my temperature is under control and for the first time in 48 hours I have reached the sickness sweet-spot, and am feeling just well enough but ill enough to sit up in bed and watch Netflix, guilt-free. I put on Jane the Virgin, the perfect Covid-19 antidote. It takes not one brain cell to enjoy but gives back so much loveliness and laughter. I receive a text from Ocado: my regular Friday order can no longer be edited. I have no idea what’s going to arrive, and I worry about food for the ten days ahead. I hear my husband talking and realise it is my sister outside the window dropping some supplies, but I can’t get to the window quickly enough and miss my socialising opportunity for the day. 

Day 3, Thursday 19 March

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程My temperature is still high, but manageable with a couple of paracetamol, and I’m up and about in the house. The latest symptom is a godawful headache and my eyes feel like they’re straining to move in their sockets. My first thought is that I have accidentally put my lenses in the wrong eyes. (I have been wearing them for 28 years but am two days out of practice). Unsurprisingly, it’s not the case.

Thankfully, my daughter seems over her temperature too. There’s a knock at the door and out of the bedroom window I see my friend getting into her car about to drive away. I fling open the window excited and we have a quick Romeo and Juliet-style chat. I go downstairs to find she’s left a bag on the doorstep. There are fresh fruit and vegetables, comics and chocolate for the kids and I find myself getting a little teary. I know everyone is worried about providing for their own families, so a little act of generosity feels so very much appreciated.

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程As it turns out, it is the first of very many rings and knocks. One friend delivers homemade soup, others bring biscuits and groceries, and I spend much of the day hanging out of the bedroom window. All around there are stories of people helping each other and it’s touching to be on the receiving end of this wave of kindness. I feel lucky to have friends and family I can lean on but I think of those who are more isolated then we are.

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程I join a community WhatsApp group and the messages of people in need are coming thick and fast. I vow to help once I’ve recovered. It may mean less time playing head teacher, but I know there will be no better life lesson for my children.

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程We break the news to the kids that school will be closing at the end of the week. My seven-year-old bursts into tears at the thought of not seeing Miss Mitz anytime again soon and the older two seem genuinely gutted as well. Now I know they won’t be going back to school for a while, it seems even more important to get them into the swing of lessons. I write them all timetables with every subject covered, plus PE and art, and it’s off to a good start.

I’m delighted when my daughter’s English project is on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and we pull out ‘We should all be feminists’ from the book shelf. My son is beavering away and my seven-year-old is logged onto ABC Mouse, a brilliant learning platform. For a very brief moment my house is a corona-schooling dream. But by lunchtime I am exhausted, everyone seems to need me at the same time. I’m trying to remember how to do simultaneous equations (you subtract the largest value of x from both sides, by the way) but my husband shoos me into bed when he finds me curled up on the sofa with a Year 7 maths booklet in hand.

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程When I wake up, the house is upside down, the kids are all making slime and there’s a bottle of spilled PVA glue in the utility room. What happened to their afternoon lessons? Why is no one doing what they are meant to? What would Chimamanda say? I raise my voice and strain my already hoarse throat but thankfully my husband swoops in as head teacher.

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程Later in bed, a message pops on my WhatsApp group, written by a psychologist. ‘What kids need right now is to feel comforted and loved. To feel like it’s all going to be OK. And that might mean that you tear up your perfect schedule and love on your kids a bit more. Play outside and go on walks. Bake cookies and paint pictures. Play board games and watch movies.’ It’s exactly what I need to hear. Home-schooling might have to be dialled down a notch. 

The view from Naomi's front door, where all her (distance) socialising takes place

Day 4, Friday 20 March

My suspected-coronavirus temperature has gone and all that’s left is the headache behind the eyes and a strange taste of nothingness in my mouth. It’s not something I’ve heard anyone connect to Covid-19 [until several days later, when it appears in the media] but breakfast tastes like papier-mâché 2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程(I’m guessing). I drink a cup of strong coffee, convinced my pounding head must be caffeine withdrawal, but two cups later and I am still feeling like my eyeballs are too heavy for their sockets. 

Miraculously, with the cleaner no longer coming, my ten-year-old wheels Henry in after breakfast for some impromptu vacuuming, an act which only has a touch of shine taken off it when he asks what his reward is going to be. Trying to put the head strain aside and with my new home-schooling mantra ringing in my ears, I try to adopt a more relaxed approach.

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程The first lesson of the day is Articulate, a game of charades using English sayings and phrases. But when I find myself running breathlessly around the kitchen switching on and off the taps and shaking various bottles in a frenzy in an attempt to act out ‘liquid lunch’ against the egg-timer, I do wonder whether the educational benefits are worth the precious energy I’m expending.

I try not to be too draconian about getting down to some more cerebral activities but being relaxed about their learning takes up a lot of internal energy. It might take time to find that balance. Inevitably, the children have lots of questions. ‘Mum…’ my ten-year-old asks, eyes wide and innocent. ‘Do you think you really have coronavirus?’ I think I detect anxiety in his voice, so I speak softly. ‘Darling,’ I say, smiling (from a safe distance), ‘We’ll probably never know for sure and even though it’s very likely…’ Before I can deliver my soothing words, he’s darted out the room and I hear him shouting at the iPad, where his friends are on FaceTime. ‘Yeah it’s true! My Mum’s got corona!’ he declares, delighted, calling it by the nickname only those most familiar with the infamous lurgy would feel comfortable using.

I guess if one good thing has come of this, it’s 10-year-old bragging rights. 

Day 5, Saturday 21 March

Residual-headache and lower-than-usual energy levels aside, I’m feeling well. After lunch, my best friend arrives with more supplies and she and her boyfriend end up sitting at the end of the path for a half-hour chat. Later, there’s a knock at the door and it’s my brother and his four kids, my friend from down the road happens to be walking passed and a few minutes later another neighbour is also passing en famille. At one point there are 12 people spread out at the bottom of the front drive (as this is days before the more stringent lockdown) but all families are keeping apart.

We sit in the porch for an hour entertaining our passing guests and despite the weirdness of the situation the sense of community is actually rather lovely. To be honest, if the new entertaining involves no cooking or cleaning up the house before guests arrive, I could get used to this new world order.

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程Saturday night is movie night. What else? And we switch on Big. A throwback to keep all ages happy. Half way through my Dad phones to tell us to open the front door. He is thankfully staying home most of the time, but has driven to our house to drop off some of my favourite biscuits. The kids are laughing and waving frantically while he does a funny dance at the end of the pathway. In the light of the porch, I catch a glimpse of his smile. It’s almost believable but it’s just a touch too wide. I know he will be wondering when he will be able to hug and kiss his grandchildren again and the thought catches me in the throat as we wave him off.

Day 6, Sunday 22 March

It’s Mother’s Day and I’m brought breakfast in bed. But I’ve had enough meals under the covers and am only too happy to head downstairs. We FaceTime the grandmas and I feel my energy is back. But a game of simple catch in the garden reminds me to take it easy.

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程My sister arrives with her husband, one- and three-year-old daughters and some biscuits (thankfully only for the kids this time) and we do the now well-practiced isolation socialising ritual. They leave the biscuits on the doorstep and retreat down the front driveway before we open the door. We share a moment in the sunshine, until my niece needs the toilet and they realise, in a slight panic, there is nowhere for them to go but home. By the end of the day, I feel like I’ve turned my back on Covid-19, if indeed it ever was it.

Tomorrow, I’ll be ready for my first day back in the office, which of course won’t actually involve an office. My head is clear and my eyes feel like they fit my eye sockets again, which is always a plus.

Day 7, Monday 23 March

It’s my last day of isolation (although the rest of the family has one more week to go). In the week we’ve been captive in our own house, the world outside has changed and before the day is out, the country is put on lockdown.

Thankfully, temperature and taste-bud-failure aside, being holed up with the family hasn’t been too bad an experience, which is just as well really, since there’s plenty more of it to come. But feeling fully recovered, I am also acutely aware that I am one of the lucky ones, as I start hearing through friends and class WhatsApp groups of people being seriously ill, among them two fit people in their 40s, both in hospital on oxygen.

2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程I feel for their partners and friends and fear the only thing that feels certain right now: that there’s months of uncertainty ahead.