Back in February 2020, seems so very long ago, my wife and I were heading off on a holiday of a lifetime to South America. As news of the Covid Pandemic was just breaking, with outbreaks in Italy predominantly, we felt we were relatively safe heading in the opposite direction. I have RA but apart from an odd flare it has not seriously hampered me so armed with a months worth of Hydroxychloroquine and a bucket load of Ibuprofen, off we went.
Our landing in Brazil took us first to a hotel on Copacabana beach which alarmingly was full of Chinese tourists which did make me think at the time but apart from the rush for breakfast we had little interaction with them. After a few days on tours in the usual tourist spots we flew inland to the Iguacio falls and I had by then developed quite a dose of the squits which we put down to the change in food and water but whilst sitting out by the pool one afternoon on about day five, I got the shivers and a headache and I recall remarking that I thought the food in the hotel seemed disappointingly tasteless but we were checking out next day en route to a rendezvous in Buenos Aires with our cruise ship home for the next two weeks. One day touring the city and an overnight in a pretty poor hotel I was becoming increasingly hampered with the need to be in regular proximity of the nearest "facilities" on a regular basis but knowing from previous cruises that we never had illness on board I put up with the inconvenience. On arrival at the cruise terminal though things became quite a bit worse and I was very glad to get aboard and have a cabin to retire to.
The days proceeded and I gradually deteriorated, got a mild sniffle, bit of a nagging cough and that all over ache and fatigue you get from flu. A nagging feeling of ominous doom began to surface in my mind and a trip to the medical facility was called for. There they ran tests, gave me a big dose of intravenous antibiotics and treatment to stop the squits, for which I was greatly relieved. They also did a lateral flow test for flu which came back negative. The diagnosis was a gastric infection which indeed seemed likely so I was confined to cabin for 24 hrs and put on room service bland diet. My wife meanwhile was off enjoying her birthday ashore with our tour group.
By the following day I felt amazing, and was cleared for release and resumed normal activities, still had the squits though! But, whatever this was, it had another go and I had recurring symptoms (shivers, aches, headache, cough) a couple of days later so checked back in to the medics. This time they treated a water infection and I was on a drip for another big dose of antibiotics for four hours. The amazing effects of these drugs was immediate and I felt on top of the world the next day. On the BBC news it was clear the world was going steadily into shutdown as the pandemic spread everywhere. Everywhere it seemed, except South America....? We indeed began to wonder. Trump was proclaiming the merits of Hydroxychloroquine as the cure drug for Covid. Penny finally dropped...the reason for my bounce back recovery?
The ship announced on a daily basis that we were virus free but one could not help notice the amount of people with a cough in theatre and activity around sick Bay was intensified. By now we were off the Chilean Coast and due to leave ship for a further land tour but at this point the whole issue of Covid had exploded and our ship was denied port, along with many others and we were "cast adrift" pending diplomatic solutions to get us all home. We suddenly were on a ten day extended cruise to a USA port of refuge and a specially chartered flight home. My wife began to feel unwell with the cough, aches, loss of taste and finally stopped complaining about the smells after my still very frequent visits to the loo! Yes, something was definitely not right. Aboard ship the medical centre had rows of seats set out in the lobby as a waiting room, such was demand. The ship was still "virus free"...?
So eventually we were home. My wife very ill, two weeks hardly out of bed weak as a kitten. I assumed the role of nurse. Some of our fellow travellers also took bad, one dead, and as the weeks drew out some 250 people reported on Cruise critic that they had Covid confirmed. At least eight have consequently died.
Of course, in the USA everyone got tests to confirm but in UK we could not get confirmatory tests, nor antibody tests so until now I cannot categorically confirm if I had Covid and managed to bounce it off but the evidence is too much in favour. Certainly, my wife suffered far worse than me. At no time did my breathing become affected and I took regular exercise walking the decks and taking the sea air. The loss of taste/smell lasted for many weeks.
The nagging feeling, was it me that took it aboard? Or was it any one of the other thousands aboard? Should I have suspected earlier and isolated, despite the medics contrary opinion? Was it Covid or a flu? I guess I will never know for sure but I feel that Hydroxychloroquine saved me from a possible fate that doesn't bear thinking about. I thought others on these forums may have experienced similar but not it seems. So if you are on RA drugs, perhaps you should not fear the diabolical consequences quite so much. Is total shielding necessary? Who knows but this is my story for what its worth.