‘I’ll never take anything for granted’: Doctor’s COVID fight
When I was diagnosed with COVID-19 in August last year, it made me think about my own mortality for the first time. I could have died.
I was a medical student living in Melbourne on placement in a general surgery round and must have picked it up while I was working at the hospital.
I had a cough that had been around for months. I decided to get it investigated and they did a COVID-19 test on me which came back negative. They did some more investigations like chest X-rays and a CAT scan and put me on antibiotics but I wasn't improving.
About a week later, I developed a fever and then it progressed into chest pains.
I decided to call an ambulance and they tested me again for COVID-19 and this time it came back positive.
Thankfully, I had only been to hospital one day during the potentially infectious period and I hadn't been to that many places but my wife did come back positive as well.
My main symptoms were chest pains and nausea and my wife had a really bad sore throat for a couple of weeks. It's so different in everyone but it took us both a few weeks to recover.
Before I got COVID and the first lockdown happened in Melbourne, I was running 5km or 10km to get out of the house and keep active.
Ever since my diagnosis, I haven't been able to do any exercise because it provokes the same bad pains in my chest that I had with COVID.
I'm still unwell. I have what they're calling "Long COVID" which means different things for different people. For me, it's getting those chest pains in the same spot as before, and headaches.
Because this is the first time we're going through this, it does make you think. Could I be like this for the rest of my life? Could this cause me to die earlier, who knows?
Nobody does at this stage and that is a frightening thought. It's comforting to know so much research is being poured into it though so hopefully, in time, we will all be more aware of what can happen.
I'm definitely more aware of the possibility of death than I was before.
Of course it's changed me as a person but also as a professional working in medicine.
It's been quite a time in history to start my medical career, that's for sure.
I grew up in Macedon in regional Victoria as the youngest of four siblings.
I was always a kid who wanted to learn more and find out how things work. We would have motorbikes that I'd pull apart and play around with. Originally, I thought that interest would fit well with engineering and that's what I first studied out of high school but I didn't love it.
Then I thought about medicine. The human body is the most complicated system and there is so much to learn.
Having that knowledge can be so powerful in helping other people and that's what really enticed me to become a doctor.
I started studying medicine at Melbourne University in 2017 and I never thought I'd face a global pandemic so early into my career. What a baptism of fire.
For the first half of last year I was doing a research project and mainly working from home when COVID hit but the second half, when Melbourne hit their peak of cases, I was doing placements in various hospitals.
In December, I moved to Queensland for my first job and now I'm working as a medical intern at the Caboolture Hospital in emergency.
It's so nice in Queensland, especially the weather and it's been a nice change from Melbourne. It's also great to be closer to my family who moved up to the Sunshine Coast at the start of last year, just before COVID hit.
Thankfully, there's not many COVID cases in Queensland so the most common things I'm treating people for in ED are kidney stones, chest pains, gastro and abdominal pains.
Having had COVID-19 myself, it's made me more aware of the impact it can have on you, physically and mentally.
As a doctor, it has changed the way I approach patients and I'll always take my time now to make sure I've answered all their questions and they're comfortable before I leave.
And personally, I'll never take anything for granted. I don't know what impact COVID-19 will have on my health long term and those unknowns really make you appreciate what is important in life.
Originally published as 'I'll never take anything for granted': Brisbane doctor's battle with long COVID