My personal story with COVID-19

(Rumana Husein)  August 2020

As a Dental Hygienist reaching 30 years this year and as a recently qualified Dental Therapist my working life was busy pre-lockdown with working at three specialist dental practices in and around London.

I had no idea of what was about to happen to me as COVID-19 arrived in London. I was working up until the 21st March and with all the protocols and early guidance was very careful but working in London and travelling on a crowded tube is not the best place to be when there was an invisible virus about!

I remember going outside my flat on the 26th March and clapping for the first time for the NHS carers and later that evening my symptoms began with a sore throat, cough and fever. I then developed myalgia, fatigue and shortness of breath. I was previously fit and healthy working out three times a week in the gym and practising yoga and never dreamed I would become so ill. Despite following government self-isolation advice my husband also contracted the virus a day later and luckily my son did not show any symptoms. There was no testing at that time for COVID-19 but we followed advice from NHS 111 and the COVID hub who suspected coronavirus.

Thankfully my partner recovered and I seemed to improve as well. However, two weeks later my health deteriorated. The worst time was with the fatigue and myalgia where I would sleep for hours but then always wake up at 4am with muscular pain. During lockdown, whilst the rest of the world were busy baking cakes, cleaning their house and jumping up and down to ‘Joe Wicks’ I was unable to even get out of bed.

As time went on, I started developing additional symptoms such as gastric and chest tightness and pressure problems. I was able to access telephone advice from my GP and after several visits to A&E where I had blood tests, ECG’s and chest x-rays which were then reported as ‘normal’, I was sent home each time and told to rest and take painkillers.

During lockdown, I also became an NHS volunteer responder providing telephone advice to the vulnerable and this provided me with a focus. I was determined to find answers and obtain help and spent much of my time researching and reading the latest evidence-based papers on COVID-19. I contacted several hospitals searching for information but to no avail. I also joined three support groups on Facebook and these provided me with the lifeline I needed as so little was known and the medical community were still discovering and dealing with this debilitating virus.

Now, four months on I am still on the COVID rollercoaster and have been left with ongoing gastric and chest problems and it’s only now the medical community and the government are becoming aware of the “long haulers”. I keep positive with family support, meditation, art and gentle yoga as even normal exercise, walking upstairs and even walking a mile can cause a relapse of symptoms. I even changed my diet by cutting out alcohol, caffeine and sugar, following ‘Tim Ives 28 day no added sugar challenge’ in a bid to improve my path to wellness.

I have now returned to work and am phasing myself in gently working part-time but I do admit it’s tough with the new protocols and PPE and I do find it difficult to wear my FFP3 mask due to my breathing issues. However, seeing my lovely patients again and working with my supportive teams have made all the difference.

Over the last few months I have thought of the need to help others in a similar position and wanted to set up a support group for dental hygienists and therapists. I began to hear from fellow colleagues who had contracted COVID-19 some of whom have recovered but I was sure there were many others like me who are still enduring symptoms. I befriended Anne M Powders recently who is also on a similar timeline of symptoms and after approaching BSDHT we have decided to set up a support group, the ‘BSDHT Covid Support Group for Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists (DH/DT)’ that will aim to provide help, advice and support with a positive focus and mindset. Our objective of this group will be to provide support to fellow colleagues who may still be experiencing the long-term symptoms and to share information and advice.

The future? Who knows? I am on the COVID rollercoaster and don’t know when I will be getting off. I am taking each day as it comes but I know that COVID-19 will not stop me from my determination to remain positive and focused and along with Anne am looking forward to helping out my colleagues in the best way that we can.

Rumana Husein CEB Dip DH 1998 BSc (Hons) Oral Health Science 2018 - Dental Hygienist / Dental Therapist


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