Day 565 – Testing my limits

Sorry for not getting back to you yesterday. I quite literally ran out of energy.

This isn’t unusual at the moment.

I’ve been pushing myself a bit for the last couple of days. And with a good reason. I’ve inadvertently(?) signed up for a trip to Robben Island, helping to manage about 40 (forty) 12-year-olds on a school visit. And something, I’m not sure quite what, is telling me that I’m going to have to be a bit further on in fitness and general recovery than I am now if I’m going to survive.

I have two weeks.

Last year’s trip was something very special, and I’m very privileged to have been asked along this time as well. But I’m mindful that I didn’t have Covid last time around. This time I’m still struggling a bit and the trip is an extra day. But there’s a whole weekend to sleep through just afterwards, so I’m sure I’ll be ok.

Step counts into the 12,000s for the last two days indicate that I’ve been testing my limits and – while I’m very fatigued by early evening – I have prevailed. It’s also been very good for the list of jobs around the house, many of which have been put on hold for the last three months.

Corner turned? Maybe.

I might even try a bit of a run tomorrow (or I might not).

Right now, I have some business in Claremont to attend to before 5:30, so let me go and do that before I fall asleep.

Can I stay up til kick off in the England game tonight (8:45pm)?
Will it be worth it if I do?

Day 560 – It’s gone again

Yesterday wasn’t great, but it did pique my scientific interest:

But how interesting is this disease? Yeah, you might have the odd off day while you’re getting over any viral nastiness, but to get the whole package again so quickly? Fine last night, rubbish this morning?

And then just disappear again overnight. Full on and then full off again. Entirely transient.
Because today I’m back to where I was the day before yesterday. You’d never even know that anything had happened, (well, aside from all the stuff that didn’t get done because I slept through yesterday morning).

The most interesting part for me is the brain thing. I have no means of accurately measuring it, unlike my heart rate and sats, but really, my brain was completely useless yesterday. I couldn’t remember names, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t find words, couldn’t finish sentences. It was as bad as it’s ever been, and really, really frustrating.

And while the aches and pains were manageable with some medication, I couldn’t fix my brain that way.

And yet today? It’s every bit as good as it was before yesterday’s nonsense. Not perfect, but it’s had a rough few months. But it is working again.

But why? What happened yesterday and how did it cause all those – often very specific – symptoms and then where did it go today?

“Immune and metabolic dysregulation” is a very convenient, yet likely answer. But why “immune and metabolic dysregulation” in some people and in some instances and not others? Well, as with all novel conditions and pathogens, nailing the exact cause will come in time and will be key to stopping days like yesterday happening again.

In the meantime, get vaccinated, because yesterday’s unpleasantness is just another thing to add to this long list of stuff that you’re far more likely to avoid if you go and get jabbed.

Day 559 – Rough morning

Weird day. I woke up early with all the symptoms of Covid again. Headache, stiff joints, sore muscles, chills, hypersalivation – the works.

Yes, that thing as well.

Oh, and FATIGUE. Like my usual 7pm fatigue, but twelve hours early.

Heart rate is up, Sats are down. And my brain has gone completely to mush. Completely.

Of course, the virus is long gone.
These are just the manifestations of my immune system still fighting things it cannot see. Bless its misguided efforts.

Worst day in a while. But how interesting is this disease?

Yeah, you might have the odd off day while you’re getting over any viral nastiness, but to get the whole package again so quickly? Fine last night, rubbish this morning?


Fascinating, bizarre and somewhat scary.

I spent the morning in bed. I got a bit of sleep and I took some some drugs, and consequently, I’m managing something like normal life this afternoon. It’s a beautiful day to be out and about.

But I am really looking forward to bedtime.

Day 554 – Communicating the science

Covid-19 can be scary.

For some, it could be scary because they’re concerned that they or their families might get infected, get sick or die.
For others, it could be scary because they are worried about the safety, efficacy or side-effects of the vaccine.

For many people, it could well be both.

As scientists, I feel that we have a responsibility to try to allay these fears as much as possible.

Information – accurate, proven information – is key to dispelling these concerns. But even if we do our level best to ignore, debate, rebut or ridicule individuals intent on sharing misinformation around the subject, and perhaps because of the mess on social media and throwing around of SO MANY numbers by both sides, it seems to be difficult for science to get what should be a fairly straightforward message, across to the general public.

It’s no use us reading and understanding a research paper and thinking that that’ll make everything ok, if that information isn’t then provided to the layperson in a usable form. We need good, knowledgeable, approachable scientific communicators to accurately decode the often high-level, technical language into something that everyone can understand. Whether we’re talking about scientific, legal, engineering or any other field, this translating of complex information so that everyone can understand is such a hugely important skill.

I think we’d all like to see an end to this pandemic. We’d like life to go back to something like we had before; we’d like to travel freely again and live our lives without the restrictions that Covid has placed upon us. If this positive potential scenario doesn’t describe your feelings, then this post isn’t for you. Your situation is beyond my remit. Sorry.

I’m very deliberately not going to use numbers in this post, nor am I necessarily going to link to papers and articles that support my points. I have done a lot of reading, and I understand a lot of the detail, but in the greater scheme of things, that detail is unimportant and can even muddy the waters: it’s the principles that actually matter.

Working from that standpoint above, we all have to understand that there is no silver bullet here. No one single 100% solution. Getting back to anywhere close to normality is going to require a combination of efforts, none of which by alone will end the pandemic. On the plus side, the more of these you personally put into place, the better protected you and those around you are, and the more you will be doing to end this horrible situation.
The more people that also put them into place, the quicker this thing is over.

Limiting the spread of the virus is how we end this pandemic.

The first way is obviously the vaccines. The vaccines are undoubtedly very effective, but they’re not perfect. They aren’t 100% effective, so yes, you will hear of people getting Covid after they have been vaccinated, and you will hear that vaccinated individuals can pass the virus on. But your chances of contracting, becoming ill from, becoming hospitalised by or dying from Covid are massively reduced when you have been vaccinated. And just as importantly, your chance of passing the virus on to other people is hugely reduced as well. This is big news, because every person that you don’t infect can’t infect anyone else either. Limiting the spread of the virus is how we end this pandemic.

It’s no surprise that the countries that are beginning to open up again and drop many of their Covid restrictions are ones with high levels of vaccination. The benefits of a lack of strain on their healthcare systems because of fewer people being infected and fewer people needing hospital treatment are clear to see.

And the vaccines are undoubtedly safe. Again, they’re not 100% safe (but then, what is?), but your chances of becoming ill or dying from the vaccine are absolutely tiny compared to the sickness and death rate of the virus. Sure, you will have heard many, many horror stories on Facebook, but take stock of where you are hearing them from and whether or not they are at all believable. This is not a new, untested technology, merely one that we have been using for a while and that can now be adapted to assist us in the fight against Covid.

The vaccine is by far the best and most important tool that we have in our armoury against Covid. It’s now readily available, free of charge right across SA and much of the rest of the world. There really is no reason not to get it.
If you are reading this and you haven’t been vaccinated yet, please make a plan to go along and get it done. A bit of a sore arm for a couple of days is nothing – nothing – compared to even “mild” Covid.

But there are other things you can do – and should be doing – as well.

Self-isolation. I know it’s a pain. I know you want to get on with your life. But if you have been exposed to someone with a Covid-19 infection and you stay at home for 10 days, you can’t pass it on. And again, all the people that you might have passed it on to – at the shops, at the restaurant, on the bus etc. – they can’t pass it on now, either.
Remember: limiting the spread of the virus is how we end this pandemic.

And then these three. SO EASY TO DO, but if everyone just did them, it would make such a huge difference.

Masks – they won’t stop coronavirus completely. Wearing a mask will reduce your chances of contracting Covid-19 a little, but far more importantly, they limit your chances of spreading the virus a great deal. Remember that some people will be lucky enough to be unaware that they are carrying the virus at all. If those people limit their chances of spreading it by simply wearing a mask, we’d be a lot better off. And again, every little bit towards limiting the spread of the virus… you know the rest by now already.

Social distancing – The further away you stand from a smoker, the less strongly you’ll smell their smoke.
Same goes for Covid. Yep, sure, you could still get Covid from someone more than 1.5 metres away, but it’s very unlikely. The further away you stay from people, the less likely you are to get the virus if they have it. Even less so if you’re wearing a mask. Ever more less so if they’re wearing a mask. And if you’re both vaccinated? Basically no risk at all! It all adds up.
And I’m lobbing ventilation in with this one – just like the smoking analogy above – the better ventilated a public space is, the less likely the virus is to spread. So avoid crowds, avoid busy, indoor spaces, open the taxi windows (ok, good luck with that one) and choose to sit outside at your favourite restaurant.

Handwashing – Soap, water, santitiser. Use what you want. We now know that Covid isn’t spread much from surfaces, but high-traffic, high-touch areas like door handles, life buttons, light switches and escalator handrests can still pose a small risk. If you wash you hands after using them, you reduce that risk to yourself. If everyone washes their hands before using them, there is no risk. Again, it’s a tiny thing, but like the whole of Cape Town not letting the tap run while they brushed their teeth during the drought, if enough people do it, and in combination with everything else, it makes a difference.

Limiting the spread of the virus is how we end this pandemic, and we all have access to the tools we need to achieve that.
An hour getting your jab. Asking a friend or neighbour to drop you some shopping in because you sat next to Barry at that meeting and he tested positive yesterday. Putting your mask on – properly – while you’re around other people. Choosing not to join huge crowds right now, going for an outdoor option whenever possible, and washing your hands, just like we were taught as kids.

It’s completely possible if we work together.

Day 541 – Beach walk

It seemed almost too easy to do 800m along the beach this morning. And that’s because – as I found out shortly afterwards – the 800m in question was very much wind-assisted.

We found that out when we came to turn around and head back to the village, directly into the teeth of a Force 8 gale. It was harder work that we’d imagined it would be.

I’d taken the camera down to see all of the wildlifes what would be there, (cos yesterday was good) but it was simply too windy for everything except a single Caspian Tern.

Anyway, I went and did it and I do feel better for the fresh air and what passes for exercise at the moment.

Tired, but happy.