My COVID Antivirals Experience
After spending the best part of two years under virtual house arrest in an attempt to protect myself from COVID, it finally found its way to me. Annoyingly, I was still being extremely vigilant; I rarely went out and when I did, I masked up and avoided getting close to strangers as much as possible.
However, all of this was in vain when one morning, my neighbor popped over to drop off a spare key and also left me with a viral surprise.
To be fair, she didn’t show any symptoms until later that evening. But when she messaged to inform me that she had COVID, my plans of an early night went out of the window. I couldn’t stop worrying about how my immunosuppressed state would cope if I contracted the virus. All the worst case scenarios flashed through my mind. I was a big ball of anxiety.
Then I remembered seeing on the news that the government had stocked up on antivirals to give out to vulnerable people with the virus. I had hoped this would be something I‘d never have to rely on as I felt I was doing everything possible to avoid catching the virus. But I figured it would be a smart idea to call up and get my hands on some just in case.
After an hour-long, anxiety-filled wait on the COVID helpline, I finally got through to someone. Unfortunately, it was a waste of time as I hadn’t officially tested positive yet, so they were unable to send me anything.
This was very frustrating. I couldn’t help worrying that if I woke up the next day with COVID, I would need urgent help to give my weakened body a fighting chance of getting through this.
The following days
After I finally exhausted myself worrying, I finally got some sleep. I woke up very shocked at how okay I was feeling. I took a lateral flow test and it came back negative. I was so relieved - I had figured that with my almost non existent immune system, the virus wouldn’t take very long to get to work in my body.
Any celebrations were short lived however, as the following day I woke up in complete agony and could barely move at all. At first I was unsure whether I was just experiencing a regular AS flare up. My back and leg pain was so severe, I couldn’t tell if I had any other symptoms or not. It was so bad that I couldn’t even find the energy to take another lateral flow test until the following day. All I could do was lie down in pain, falling in and out of consciousness.
But when I finally made that very short but painful waddle into my living room to test myself, I was instantly greeted with the dreaded double line.
My worst nightmare
My heart sank, I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe this would be the end for me. I had spent so long hiding away from the virus in fear of my life. Now I was living my worst nightmare. I was 3 vaccines deep at this point, but the way my body already seemed to be shutting down was a massive cause for concern.
I immediately called the helpline back to let them know that I now officially had COVID and wanted to grab some antivirals as soon as possible. After several hours waiting for call backs from various doctors, I finally got the all clear for the Paxlovid to be dispatched.
It took two days for these pills to arrive. Two days of being in excruciating pain and major exhaustion. I could barely bring myself to eat. I only found the energy to get up for food once a day. I would carry back as much as I could to my bed and would nibble at my stash throughout the day, when I found the energy.
When I finally received the pills, it felt very similar to my experiences of Christmas morning as an adult; I was excited to unwrap the gift but felt extremely rough at the same time. Except this time it wasn’t caused by a hangover from Christmas Eve.
My antiviral experience
It took a day to get working, but it was definitely worth the wait. I slowly regained some strength to move and was no longer drifting in and out of consciousness. It was still a very painful fortnight for me until I finally looked down at a single line in the test.
An hour after every dose of the antivirals I could feel some improvement. It was hard to tell if there were many side effects as my body had completely shut down before I began the course. All I could feel was pain and I barely had enough energy to notice how much I was coughing!
However, the one thing that I could absolutely not ignore was the taste of these pills. I had heard that loss of taste was a common symptom in people who had contracted the virus. I half wish that this was something that happened to me as the flavor of this medication was horrendous. Throughout the course of the pills, I had a constant foul taste in my mouth. It wasn’t like my methotrexate pills, that give a quick taste of hairspray when you swallow them before quickly fading away. It was as if my saliva had been replaced with battery acid.
There was some benefit to this horrid lingering taste in my mouth however - it motivated me to eat something, if only in an attempt to wash away the rotten taste.
I know I spent a while slating the taste of them, but I am grateful for antivirals for anyone with a suppressed immune system who is unlucky enough to catch COVID.
Of course it is important to check with your doctor first before using. I was in a really bad way before I started taking them and I dread to think what might have happened without the help of these pills. Another piece of advice would be to stock up on chewing gum and any foods that might cleanse your palate in order to deal with the long lasting aftertaste.
I do think that these medications should be made accessible to society’s most vulnerable people prior to contracting the virus. If I had them handy, I could have started on them straight away and avoided a couple extra days of misery.
Have you tried any antiviral medications for COVID 19?
Have you taken our In America Survey yet?
Join the conversation