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Living with MS while recovering from COVID-19

Mark Webb

Yikes! Well that’s been a fun two weeks or so. Not.

Lockdown all started out ok. The sun was out and I was set on getting just a bit fitter. We set about some household silliness, and all looked relatively rosy. Except for my new hairstyle as delivered by my children.

Then, just as the UK was approaching peak cases and hospitals were heroically, desperately, bursting at the seams, I developed the main symptoms of COVID-19.

The first signs and a visit from a paramedic

It started with a constant, exhausting and painful dry cough. A fever. In my case, a sore throat and a touch of nausea too. And anxiety through the roof.

A doctor call-back confirmed I probably had it, as did a dashed paramedic visit to our son. As well as COVID-19, he also had an asthma attack thrown into the mix. He’s a tough chap and a cool dude, and I’m very proud of how he copes. Courtesy of my ‘underlying condition’ (which doesn’t feel very underlying to me) and our older son’s asthma, we knew we needed to be extra careful. We were, and still are.

COVID-19 hit the two of us on pretty much the same day. Him heavier on the cough at first, me heavier on the fever. Much of the script we’ve been hearing has been that most people get it mildly or even asymptotically. And at the other end of the spectrum, that the vulnerable and elderly were highly at risk. Well, we both got it medium-ish, and thankfully our son bounced back quickly

The impact of COVID-19 on MS symptoms

As with any fever I contract, I was immobilised for about a week. All my symptoms and disabilities were exacerbated horribly. A transfer from bed to loo and back again would take 90 exhausting and exhausted minutes. No blokey newspaper-on-the-bog reading involved, just sheer effort and clumsy, shaky handling of catheter. And pulling on socks? Onto my feet I mean? 30 spasm-ing mins, easy.

Fatigue is frequently a big partner-in-crime of MS. Both as a direct symptom and as a result of the effort of getting through the day with all the other MS bits ‘n bobs. COVID-19 took me to a whole new uncharted level. And that’s saying something. Or slurring it.

Anxiety of being in the ‘vulnerable’ group

It’s all very well being called vulnerable at every turn. But when most daily doom updates include the fact that a big x% who died had underlying conditions [‘so don’t panic too much you ‘normal’ people’], then it does keep anxiety levels sky high. I inserted the squared brackets, but that’s exactly how the messaging feels. Every day.

I’ve pointed out before that fair-weather friends fade away when you are diagnosed with MS, and when you bound gleefully into a wheelchair. There’s been none of that this time round. Lots of outpouring of love and (two metre distant, electronic) empathy.

I approve. More of this supportive community behaviour please.

This blog is adapted from a post on Mark's One Man and His Catheters blog.