‘I felt I might not survive’: East Ham woman describes month-long battle with coronavirus

Karolina Króliczek during her battle with coronavirus. Picture: Karolina Króliczek

Karolina Króliczek during her battle with coronavirus. Picture: Karolina Króliczek - Credit: Karolina Króliczek

An East Ham woman has told how she has been left struggling to breathe and unable to go for a run more than a month after contracting coronavirus.

Karolina Króliczek with her neighbour's cat. Picture: Karolina Króliczek

Karolina Króliczek with her neighbour's cat. Picture: Karolina Króliczek - Credit: Karolina Króliczek

Karolina Króliczek, who said she felt like a “goldfish taken out of a fishtank”, was unable to leave her home for four weeks while she battled the virus and has still not fully recovered.

“The experience of Covid-19 was horrifying,” she said. “Breathing is such a simple thing, I never thought that Covid-19 could reduce it to the point that I was struggling while speaking with my mother over the phone and feeling like having a hard asthma.”

The PR consultant explained that it was “very likely” that she contracted the virus on March 5 when she met someone, who had a cough, at a Canning Town coffee shop.

“The first three days since I contracted the virus were totally asymptomatic,” she said.

Karolina Króliczek before she contracted coronavirus. Picture: Karolina Króliczek

Karolina Króliczek before she contracted coronavirus. Picture: Karolina Króliczek - Credit: Karolina Króliczek

“One of the first symptoms were itchy eyes which might suggest that the virus got firstly into my eyes through cough and air droplets.

“I also lost the smell and taste of any food and I developed a watery nose discharge.”

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The 30-year-old said that over the next few days, she started to experience symptoms including tiredness, a dry throat, headaches and slight dizziness, and realised she would need to self-isolate.

But it was on the eighth day that she started having a “scary and shocking” experience of shortness of breath.

“I felt like I would be using only five per cent of my lungs to breathe,” she said. “It was like that kind of feeling when you are blowing up balloons, but you still want to make them bigger and you blow further, even if you feel an air pressure coming out.

“My symptoms were worsening, I tried to force myself to breathe, putting a hot water bottle on my upper chest to warm it up and moving my hands up and down, still forcing myself to breathe for the next two days.

“The pain inside my chest was an awful feeling like someone crashed it and my chest hurt when I was coughing.

“Then I’ve figured out that I’ve developed pneumonia - my lungs, upper arms and my back started to hurt and it was the first time I felt I might not survive this.”

Karolina said that her condition did not improve for three days but then her lungs started to clear out.

“I was vomiting the phlegm and mucus out of my lungs,” she said. “I noticed that my breathing became easier then and I started forcing myself to do so.

“The following days my condition started improving and then I knew my immune response had fought off this nasty virus. I felt I could manage this without going to the hospital.”

She described the first few days in self-isolation as “scary”, adding that her flatmates were leaving food by her door.

“I almost didn’t leave my room, only to the bathroom and always wearing my mask,” Karolina said.

“I tried to avoid touching any surfaces or handle doors.

“When I started to feel better I was watching Netflix movies. The neighbour’s cat also started visiting me when I started improving and demanding some attention - in fact for the first weeks of my quarantine that was the only creature that I had seen!”

She also praised Deliveroo drivers who brought food to her home, adding: “They helped a lot - so much that I’ve started tipping more than usual.”

And although she is now out of self-isolation and able to go outside, Karolina feels it will be a lot longer until she can take part in activities such as running and swimming again.

“I see right now that the recovery will take longer than I’ve predicted,” she said.

“I remember the discussion we had with one of my friends and I said to him that one, maybe two weeks and I will be on the mend. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like that.

“A month after I caught the virus, I went for a walk for the first time, sweating with every metre and feeling generally weak.

“My lungs are improving day by day, but it will be at least one or two months of recovery to start breathing like I was breathing before it - fully and without an unpleasant feeling like the capacity of my lungs have been somehow reduced.”

Karolina urged people not to be ignorant of the virus and to stay indoors, especially if they had symptoms.

“No one wants to have more than four weeks taken out of his or her life,” she said. “For everyone who treats the pandemic seriously, as we should, you will feel relief when it’s over and the feeling that you’ve saved lots of people’s lives will be priceless.”