The fear many people associate with catching Covid-19 is the possibility of death. Have you ever considered that death may be the least of your concerns? Depending on where you live in the world, the chance of dying from covid-19 is ~2.5%. The chance of suffering long term lung scarring after surviving covid 19? Over 33%. The road to recovery is long, with some side effects lasting longer than the 2 weeks we are told it takes to recover.
Day 0 – 14
The worst has happened and you have contracted covid. If you are lucky, you are one of the 40-45% who are asymptomatic, or have a mild reaction to the disease. The only discomfort for this lucky minority will be the quarantined hospital stay and the dread of waiting for all your family and friends to get tested.
For those who are not so fortunate, we have all seen the images. As the virus moves down your respiratory tract, from your nose, mouth, to your throat and eventually your lungs, your immune system will kick into overdrive to keep you alive. Fever, cough, trouble breathing, fatigue, aches. As it reaches the deepest part of your lungs, this results in pneumonia, the infection of the tiny air sacs inside your lungs that are responsible for oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. This causes inflammation which makes it very difficult to breath, at worse, needing machine intervention in order to survive.
Once the brunt of the infection passes, and your breathing gradually improves again, your body is still worse for wear from the experience, opening you to many possible resulting illnesses.
Due to the inflammatory responses from infection, blood clots may form. These ticking time bombs flow in your blood stream until they either dissipate or cause a blockage. Depending on where it causes a blockage can cause different effects. If it clogs in your brain, that will result in a stroke, which affects 5% of hospitalized Covid-19 patients. If it clogs in your lungs, that will cause a pulmonary embolism, which affects 30% of hospitalized Covid-19 patients. If it happens in your veins, it can cause deep vein thrombosis, which in worse cases means amputation.
Blood clotting, can still happen up to 1 week after you leave the hospital. You will be taking anti-coagulants for at least 2 weeks, or until your doctor says it is safe to stop.
Day 28 onwards
The effects of Covid 19 can last a lifetime.
The most common will be lung scarring. The inflammation and pneumonia can be so harsh that your lungs are left permanently damaged, leaving you with reduced functionality. Similarly, Covid-19 causes heart inflammation, of which permanent damage will also reduce functionality. This will result in a lifetime of shortness of breath, fatigue from moderate exercise and increased chances of heart failure. Running to catch a bus will leave you gasping for air.
If you are unlucky enough to suffer a stroke, you can expect emotional, social and physical impairments that hamper your quality of life. 42% of stroke sufferers find themselves unable to return to work.
Most worryingly, are the neurological affects. Survivors can be emotionally affected, suffering from post-traumatic stress after the ordeal. The delirium that you suffer during your hospital stay can be so intense that it affects you for a lifetime. In fact, delirium is an indicator of early onset cognitive decline. Covid-19 survivors also show an abnormal reduction in grey matter within the brain. This will have similar effects as sufferers of Alzheimer’s and chronic alcoholism, such as impaired motor control and loss of memory.
Scared? This is all preventable.
The major benefit of the vaccine, is not that you are less likely to catch covid-19 (though this is still very true), If you take the vaccine, you have a 94% chance to have an asymptomatic response, if still sick, an 87% chance to avoid hospitalization, then a further 92% chance to avoid severe disease. (Statistics For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination)
It also worth noting that it isn’t Covid-19 specifically that causes these problems, but from the pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome that you suffer from as a result of the viral infection. The Flu, SARS, MERS can all cause these reactions too.
Wear a mask, get vaccinated. It is the smart thing to do.
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