Coronavirus symptoms: ‘I thought I was going to die’ NHS worker shares horrifying account

Coronavirus statistics, though horrifying, can sometimes make the threat feel abstract. First-person accounts are a poignant reminder that there is a human behind these numbers. An Edinburgh-based NHS worker has further lifted the curtain on the effects of the virus, recalling her experience in disturbing detail.


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Karen McCabe, 44, ended up in intensive care after her condition took a drastic turn for the worse.

The NHS worker developed symptoms while self-isolating with her children.

Speaking to the Daily Record, Karen said: “I couldn’t breathe, and I really mean that.

“It was like someone was sitting down hard on my chest every time I tried to inhale or exhale, which was excruciatingly painful. It was so bad I couldn’t speak.

“At one point a consultant came to see me and I nearly fell off the chair trying to breath and kept trying to say ‘please help me, please help me’.

 “I honestly thought I was going to die.

Karen went to explain how her temperature would oscillate between “burning hot” and “shivering uncontrollably”.

This was accompanied by severe body aches and an agonising headache, she said.

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The NHS worker also reported losing her sense of taste and smell, a lesser-known warning sign that is increasing cropping up in patient reports.

Karen was initially admitted to the Western General hospital following bouts of vomiting.

The nurse was then transferred to the intensive care unit where she was placed on a non-invasive ventilator as her “body couldn’t cope”.


  • Coronavirus warning – the best way to avoid severe symptoms

What should I do if I spot COVID-19-related symptoms?

You must not leave your home if you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or live with someone who does, according to the NHS.

The self-isolation period is seven days.

After seven days, if you do not have a high temperature, you do not need to self-isolate, notes the NHS.

Although, if you still have a high temperature, keep self-isolating until your temperature returns to normal, the health body advises.

“You do not need to self-isolate if you just have a cough after seven days,” says the health site.

It explains: “A cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.”

Coronavirus – what we know so far

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. 

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