Covid-19 2, Niki’s Graduation 0

Yesterday, I was meant to be in Nottingham walking across the graduation stage to complete my PhD studies journey finally. Of course, this was supposed to have almost two years ago, except that Covid-19 lockdowns meant that this was not possible. The university had sent us our certificates (so, I’m already a doctor, just not robed) back in 2020, with this IOU.

Blue card with a bunch of text, headlined "We owe you one Graduation".

Unfortunately, Covid-19 has hit again and I was unable to attend the ceremony. Of course, as many people have reminded me, there are no official rules stopping me from attending. But I could not in all my conscience attend an event – with family members and good friends, at that – knowingly spreading the virus all around. In any case, I would have been too weak. Monday was probably the worst day of my symptoms so I couldn’t have trained over to Nottingham anyway.

I feel sad that I was not able to join Abi, Dave and Rob, who looked lovely in their robes. I also feel really bad that my tai che and Mizuan – my oldest sister and brother-in-law – had made specific plans to be in the UK on these dates to attend the ceremony.

Hopefully, the university will reply soon to let me know if I can attend the August ceremony instead. I’ve also contacted Ede & Ravencroft about my gown to see if they’ll let me change ceremonies. Ibis Hotel has offered to allow me to change my date, so hopefully it’ll all work out and that catching Covid-19 isn’t going to put me out of pocket.

I’ve abandoned this blog for a while now, what with work and all, but I thought getting Covid (again!) was worth recording. This is especially since I created this to record what life was like living through this particular pandemic. So, here are some facts: I was one of four people who got it during a short getaway last week (not sure which one of us brought it in, but my LFT test the morning I went over was negative). The others had recovered from it fairly recently, so they all didn’t get reinfected.

A couple of my friends didn’t have any symptoms, but I did. And while it’s been certainly milder than when I had it pre-vaccine back in 2020, it’s not been ‘mild’ at all. I can’t say any of the colds (or even flu) I’ve ever had in my life quite compares to this. But I am slightly more functional than I was back during round one.

It’s been about 6-7 days now, and it’s driving me crazy. I can’t wait for a negative test and feeling better so that I can get back to life (and work – marking hell has begun).

Welcome to 2022

When I used to plan my blog posts (back in the day!), I would end the year before with some reflections of my highlights, and then start off the new year with some resolutions and goals. But I’ve not done all of that in many years now.

But since I started this blog again in 2020 to document the pandemic life, and since the pandemic is still ongoing, I wanted to document something. After all, I wasn’t in a position to do anything last new year – I was trying to recover from my Covid-19 infection.

I do have some resolutions and goals for this year – from simple ones like doing a one-month planking challenge just for the heck of it to broader ones like sending out a proposal to turn my thesis into a book. But if the past two years have thought me anything, it’s that my main resolution is to stay healthy, enjoy life and spend it with people I love.

Everything else – and there are many things of course – is secondary.

I won’t bother to list them out (the past two years have also taught me that despite best intentions, things don’t always go the way you plan it!).

So, instead of looking ahead, I’m going to look at the present. Today, I am feeling gratitude. And to document this, I have to look at the past.

I am so aware that 2021 wasn’t a great year for me personally: I kicked off the new year recovering from a virus I had spent almost 8-9 months avoiding with a vengeance. I was at a job that I was really unhappy at (but feeling guilty for being unhappy because so many of my other friends couldn’t get academic jobs). I had to go back into strict lockdowns again all on my own. I wasn’t able to return over the summer to visit my family. I had very few friends in Birmingham. I was quite miserable.

Things changed, however, and now I am grateful to 2021 for easy access to three Covid-19 vaccines that has kept me safe. I won an award for my PhD thesis from the Association of Internet Researchers, my academic home. I have a new job that I’m enjoying at the moment, and working with some brilliant colleagues. I built relationships with some great new people, and solidified some old friendships. And most significantly, I got to give my mother (and the rest of my family) a hug for the first time in over two years.

In that sense, I’ve had an extremely good year despite the hardships. And all while being in the middle of a freaking pandemic. That, in itself, I think is a win.

Happy New Year!

Getting my vaccine jab, months after catching Covid-19

It’s just about 48 hours since I got my Oxford/AstraZaneca vaccine jab, so I thought I’d share a little bit of my experience. I woke up to a post on IG from my friend Wei Hsien asking people to share how it has been for them because it can be reassuring, and that motivated me to return to this blog! I agree with him completely – lots of people are making jokes about how everyone is sharing their shots (or worse, shaming those who do). Considering the levels of vaccine hessitency and so many people being genuinely afraid, I think it’s all the more important that we normalise the idea of getting vaccinated.

That said, apologies for the slightly click-baity headline but I personally don’t know anyone who’s had Covid-19 and got the jab, so thought that there might be some value to my experience. While I know things are different for everyone, and I’m certainly not that kind of doctor, there is also a lot to be said of anecdotal sharing. In the UK, generally if you don’t have Covid-19 symptoms, have recovered, or past about 4-weeks since you tested positive/started having symptoms, you can get vaccinated. I heard that it is longer in Malaysia (the father of someone I know was turned away and asked to reschedule) before they let you take the vaccine.

Niki, wearing a maroon face mask, holding up his vaccination card and a "I've had my Covid vaccination" sticker". The sky is blue, and Niki's hair is a mess.

So, let’s start slightly at the beginning, that is a few weeks ago and not when I first came down with Covid-19. I had been waiting in anticipation for my turn to be able to register for my jab, especially when those in their 40s were slowly allowed to register. When it came down to 42 and over, I got really frustrated – I was just 3 months off the cut off date. Thankfully, within a couple of days, it went down to 40 and above.

I got a heads up about this through my friend Alex, who had seen a tweet from someone saying that although it’s not been announced yet, the system was allowing those 40 and over to register (as it turns out, the announcements were made the next morning, so I think they system was just getting ready for the new age group). I was told it was busy trying to get online bookings the next morning, so I’m glad I went in the night before and essentially got it sorted within minutes. Seems, there’s still value to Twitter!

There were slots available for the very next day, but I booked one for 10 days later, because I’m still hanging on to delusional hopes of returning to Malaysia to see my mum in the summer. So I wanted to make sure that my 11/12th week for the second dose was in August (when I’d have to be back by anyway). There is a vaccination centre just 15 minutes walk from my place (just across the street from where I did my Covid test that came back positive) at Millenium Point, so that was easy. I also booked in my second dose at the same time.

At this stage, I have to say that I am so grateful to be getting my vaccine in the UK. The NHS has been amazing with the roll-out and there was never a doubt I was going to get my jab – it was a matter of clearly waiting for my turn. I am cognisant of this because I have seen (and felt) the stress of family and friends back in Malaysia who has been struggling to get theirs. My immediate family were lucky to have all managed to get an appointment via the AstraZaneca “lottery“, and mum got hers on day one of the roll out. Still, that this had to happen this way in itself is a big shame – the Malaysian general roll-out has been dissapointing, and there is also the issue of unequal access to vaccines across the poorer countries in the world.

Instagram screenshot of Millenium Point, with a banner stating that this was the Covid-10 Vaccination Centre. There is a caption in the middle of the picture which reads: "In and out in just over 5 minutes. I #CucukMyAz also".

My appointment for the jab was on Sunday, 9 May, at 9.45am. I rocked up barely a couple of minutes before my slot and walked right in where they had my name in a list. I was then pointed from usher to usher, until I took my seat. There was one staff manning the computer asking the important questions related to my identity (no need to register etc. because we’re all on the NHS system, and also registered online when we booked our slot). Then a (presumably) nurse asked a few medical related questions, and then a quick jab and that was it – it really was as painless as everyone said! They asked if I was driving, and when I said no, I could leave immediately (you have to wait for 15 minutes at the waiting area if you’re driving). They didn’t even put a plaster on my jab spot, although one of the nurses/ushers/staff person did notice a bit of blood so called me back to get it wiped down and covered.

Now, to wait for the symptoms to hit. I must admit that I didn’t know what was going to happen to my body, but my anxieties got the better of me. I’d been dreading the jab a couple of days before not because I’m afraid of needles, but because I was having some sort of trauma flashbacks to how awful I felt when I had Covid (likely even more dramatised in my head!). I had heard from many friends and family that the usual symptoms of fever, chills, body aches and more were common, for up to 48 hours. From what people I know have encountered, symptoms tend to hit from 10 – 12 hours in with AstraZaneca (although, important to remember that everyone reacts differently).

One of the bits I was most interested in was what would this mean for someone like me who had recovered from the virus? All of the people I had spoken to or heard from have not been infected before. Would I feel nothing because my body already had antibodies and it was prepared for whatever was going to trigger the response? Or will it think it’s under attack (although no virus is injected into us), and will retaliate?

In the end, my symptoms only started hitting at hour 13, just as I was getting ready for bed. I felt the kind of feverish-sensations (slight aching, sensitive to touch) but with no temperature. I took some paracetamol and went to bed. I slept relevative okay, but my brains were hyperactive and kept waking me up asking me to check if I had any symptoms (ugh to anxieties). But about 4.30am, when the meds had worn off, I was still feeling the sensations so I took two more.

In the end, that was the worst I felt, so I got off easy. I took a couple more paracetamol in the morning yesterday because I had meetings and work to do, but survived the day without feeling much more. And I slept well last night. I woke up today feeling okay and that’s my 48 hours! I had little hints of a headache yesterday, but it wasn’t significant enough for me to even consider it a symptom – could just be from the lack of sleep!

Things are opening up in England again, and I’ve been quite anxious about it all although I’ve started socialising outdoors again recently, so this jab will go a long way in alleviating some of my anxieties – especially as we’re due to open up further next week. It’ll take some weeks before this first dose takes full effect (although i likely have antibodies already anyway from my infection), and I will still be as careful as I can in navigating life, but I am super grateful for science, health workers and everyone who has contributed to making it all a bit safer for us again.

From one lockdown to another

The Prime Minister has just announced another national lockdown which will last for at least six weeks. In my head, this is the 2nd lockdown, after the first in March this year.

There was another one in November but schools and university remain open, I believe, so it wasn’t really the same as the first one. Besides, I had to go onto campus twice a week to teach in the autumn semester so it didn’t really feel like I was in lockdown.

This new one is meant to start on Wednesday, the last day of my self-isolation based on the NHS app. From one lockdown to another.

The good news, I suppose, is that I feel better today and seem to be on the mend. I think a few more days of rest will get me fighting fit soon enough.

No Snow

It was supposed to snow heavily for six hours last night; instead it only fell for less and hour. Although it settled, there wasn’t enough and it melted away quite quickly.

This wasn’t the view I wanted to wake up to, although I suppose I can feel less bad about being stuck in a flat self-isolating and recuperating (I haven’t yet been able to “enjoy” the snow this winter). Thought I felt better today when I woke up but after dishes and breakfast, fatigue and nausea hit and it was back to bed for me.

Fun times …

New Year’s Eve in bed

It’s just as well that with the pandemic, we should all stay indoors. Not that it’s much of a choice for me considering that I have few days left to go with my isolation. If not for testing positive, however, I would already be spending the day with my bubble so there is a hint of sadness.

I woke up today feeling much better than the past few days, and able to get out of bed by 9ish – that’s a good few hours better than before. But just doing the dishes from yesterday and preparing breakfast winded me, and I was back in bed again for most of the day – except for meals. I did manage to catch up on some emails and other more productive things from bed, however, which is quite the improvement.

I wasn’t going to post anything on here until tomorrow, but I got a call from the NHS Test and Trace team today, which I thought I should make a note off (this blog started off as a way to record life in a pandemic after all). At first, I thought it was really good that they did it – since we’re not encouraged to contact the Covid hotlines or go to a GP/hospital unless things become very serious – because it feels like someone is looking out for you.

But after the initial “How are you doing?” and “Are you showing any symptoms?”, the woman just started reading things off a script. I’m sure the first two questions were scripted too but it just ended up being a monologue really … and really monotonous too that she almost sounded like a robot. If not for the occasional umms and errs, I wondered if it was a recorded message about how it was illegal for me to leave the house and “do you understand this?”

I think what she said was made all the more jarring because it’s basically a repetition of the several text messages and emails I’ve received from the NHS and my GP. It become less about checking in on me to feeling like I was being tracked and surveilled.

But she was just doing her job, I suppose. Not long after that call, I was back in bed with a bit of lightheadedness and mild breathing difficulties. I’m so sick of my bed and just want to feel better.

I know it’s only a couple of hours away but I hope next year brings me better recovery.

Happy New Year, one and all.

Ah, and there goes some fireworks!

The day I found out I have Covid-19

I was only going to start posting on this blog again in 2021, but lockdown due to pandemic inspired the birth of this site and so, I had to at least record the positive result I received today from Covid-19 test.

I’m posting that screen grab from The Guardian above for posterity; when I logged on there to look for the stats, I didn’t expect to be part of the statistics for the highest number of recorded daily cases in the UK ever.

Not my proudest moment. But what can you do? I’ve been as cautious as I possibly could – and barring one or two transgressions – have generally been really good about the way I have behaved since the start of the first lockdown.

Just hoping my symptoms doesn’t worsen and that I’ll be fighting fit again soon.

Many people have sent well-wishes, thank you. x