By Pip Atherstone-Reid, co-owner of Kundalini House.
Everything has a silver lining and after nearly 2 years in and out of lockdowns and trying hard to not to get COVID19, I was a little stunned into silence as I looked at my phone: PHILIPPA, your COVID test on 25/11/2021 is POSITIVE… Hang on, this couldn’t be right? Where would I have got it? I hadn’t been anywhere in the last 10 days, but I’d just seen 17 clients at my clinic in Anglesea over the last 2 days! Damn, I thought back at every moment I’d adjusted my mask, washed my hands.. had I taken my mask off at all? My heart sank, I was about to find out if the protocols that we had been going over and over were good enough. I thought of my kids that I’d snuggled and kissed over the last week. I tried to reassure myself that most little ones didn’t get sick. Both my partner and I are vaccinated, surely we would be ok?
I had gone to bed the night before with a blocked and runny nose, which could have been caused by the local CFA burning off and smoke that was sitting around our neighbourhood in Anglesea where I live. But when I woke up that morning, I felt the familiar muscle ache of a cold coming on and my nose was still running. I went off to get a COVID test and kept the kids at home. On reflection I had been tired all week, maybe a little achy but I had put that down to exercising harder over the weekend. Any other day, it would have been that. But somewhere in the past 14 days I had picked up COVID.
It is lucky I wasn’t that sick those first two days, it took nearly 2 days to contact every close contact of mine, my children and my partner. To organise the family to go and get a COVID test and to reassure my children that we weren’t going to die. Two years of cautioning and warning about COVID was needing to be undone quickly to reassure them that we were safe. It turns out having COVID requires a lot of paperwork and organisation!
There are no definitive studies on vitamins and supplements to help with COVID but there are preliminary studies, ideas and concepts that you can follow. And with the help of the brain’s trust that were my colleagues at Kundalini House, I came up with a treatment plan that I was hoping would support my system to deal with this virus. Fish oils for inflammation[i], Vitamin D[ii] and zinc[iii] for my immune system, good old Armaforce – which I often use for when I get a cold and that was all I had in my cupboard. It was a good start. I felt my own pulse using Classical Chinese Medicine diagnostics and prescribed some Chinese Herbs. I had been studying the Shang Han Lun for nearly 8 years, Zhang Zhong Jing the author, wrote this clinical medical text after two thirds of his extended family died from a pandemic. The whole book was about treating Wind Colds! i.e.: pretty much viruses and their effect on the body. I felt like he had my back. Let’s see what having COVID would be like!
I have a lot to be grateful for. And those first few days made me remember what a privileged life I had been born into. I had phone calls from the Department of Health, the Barwon Health COVID monitoring service and the PHU checking in to see if I had understood the information that I had been sent, to see if I was safe in the house I lived in, to see if my physical health was ok, to see if my mental health was coping, to reassure me that they were there if I needed anything, to check to see if I was able to get food for the next ten days. All from these incredibly gentle and kind human beings that I had never met. My friends and family brought me flowers, groceries, checked in, sent love, walked our dog, dropped off ice-cream and games for the kids and kindly did not make me feel guilty for potentially spreading this to them. We could relax back and be present to this visitor and the quarantine it demanded.
Everybody’s experience of COVID19 will be slightly different, the virus when entering the body triggers a response to the immune system which sets off inflammation. Inflammation is a natural part of the body’s immune defence and helps to remove the pathogen and initiate the healing process. The virus’s effect on the cells and the subsequent inflammation can affect many systems in the human body; the lungs, the nervous system, including the brain, the blood, the kidneys, the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal system. For some people, this response can be equivalent to a storm and cause damage to the tissue and cells. Symptoms can be mild or severe and can include:
- Shortness of breath; dyspnoea
- Brain fog
- Joint & muscle pain
- Chest pain
- A fever that comes and goes
For me, COVID brought fatigue; my body felt like it had been hit by a bus. I ached and my head and thoughts felt slow and cotton ball like. I could feel the inflammation in my system and my brain, I felt concussed. I rested and felt into my body. The psoas tension I thought I had from exercise, now showed itself to be painful inguinal glands. My throat was sore, but very mildly and would disappear whenever I took my herbs. I felt a slight fever come and then go just as quickly.
We finally got my family’s tests back and surprisingly they were negative. It wasn’t through me isolating from them, I think I had the vaccination to thank for that. Maybe what was keeping my symptoms mild was also protecting my family, a low viral load. And slowly I heard back from my clients, friends and work colleagues, all of them thankfully were also negative. So far, I hadn’t passed it on to anyone I knew of! The relief was huge and I could rest a little deeper.
I added melatonin to my protocol, there had been some preliminary studies that suggested melatonin had a potential to help recovery.[iv] At the least it may help me sleep deeper and our wonderful Clinical Nutritionist/Chinese Medicine Doctor Leoni who I had been chatting to suggested it for me. I also increased my fish oil, my brain felt so slow, it was hard to think and words felt far away at times.
Day 6 came, and it was time for my family to get tested again. The kindly Barwon Health man who called me around Day 4 had advised when I asked him about isolating from my family: ‘look I wouldn’t suggest coughing on your children, but we are finding that families who try hard to isolate from each other end up slowly passing it on to each other, so isolation continues.’ After that phone call we stopped trying to isolate me to one room and figured an airborne virus was not about to stop at the door anyway. So, we were hygienic but also around each other and we were expecting one of them to have caught it. But Day 7 came, and all 3 results were negative again! To all our delight, they were out of quarantine and well.
At this stage, the cold symptoms I had been experiencing disappeared and the brain fog and fatigue was all that was left. I hadn’t even had a day of respiratory symptoms! I’d got away with it.. until Day 8 and my fatigue lifted and I became short of breath. This can be a common time in the progression to experience shortness of breath and I could feel my lungs heavy and struggling. But within 3 or 4 hours the shortness of breath left and I developed a productive cough and all the mucus that had been produced came gently up. My body had fought it off.
As a family we chose to get vaccinated quite early, I always weigh up the risks between taking any medicine and the effects of the problem I am preventing or treating. This includes natural type medicines such as supplements, Chinese Herbs and Allopathic Western Medicine. Everything influences the body, and we need to be careful whenever we choose medicines. As a family, we decided that the risk of the COVID19 virus was higher than the potential risks of the vaccination and chose that option. But health is not only the medicines and treatments you choose, we also chose to eat good foods, to exercise, to rest and to avoid eating inflammatory foods and staying well and strong to the best of our ability. It is also true to say that it helps that we live in a safe place, with good infrastructure, amazing community and no underlying health problems. Health is a multi-faceted state and contracting COVID made me remember, it takes a community to be healthy. And the silver lining? I had a lived experience of COVID19 to help my clients, friends and family if they get it in the future and I now have Hybrid Immunity! Natural immunity and vaccination immunity! I’m super immune. 😊
BHSc (CM), DipHSc (Acu), DipCCM, CMRB, ATMS
Pip has been practicing Chinese Medicine for over 15 years, finishing her Bachelor of Health Science Acupuncture at the end of 2001 with an internship in Nanning, China. She spent 3 years working in Ireland and 6 months in Malawi, Africa before returning home. She has since completed a post-graduate course in Canonical Chinese Medicine, which specialises in the application of Clinical Herbal medicine.
If you think you may have COVID, please seek medical advice from a doctor.