'Stay at home': plea from woman who fears she may have spread Covid-19

Sarah Ashley self-isolated with a cough but then her friend was taken to an ICU

Sarah Ashley was not offered a test at any point but she believes she had coronavirus.
Sarah Ashley was not offered a test at any point but she believes she had coronavirus. Photograph: Sarah Ashley/Facebook

When she woke up on Monday morning the week before last, Sarah Ashley thought she was suffering from a hangover. When it dragged into the following day, the 38-year-old thought it was a lingering symptom of her weekend away.

???I was just so exhausted and thought I just needed some early nights,??? she remembers. ???I was in bed both those nights by 9.30pm, which is not me.???

Her cough began on Wednesday, a dry bark from deep in the lungs, and on Thursday she decided to work from home. That day the government asked people with a new continuous cough to self-isolate. ???I spoke to my mum ??? I was like: that???s you, that???s me.???

Ashley, from Bedford, could not get through to her GP; she left messages but no one called back. She called 111 and was told to stay at home. She was not offered a test. By Saturday her chest was tight. ???It felt like someone was standing on it.??? Ashley???s friends began to suffer similar symptoms and on Sunday, her best friend???s sister, a mother of one, aged 25, was struggling to breathe.

???She was refusing to go to hospital or get any doctors, because she had had such bad experiences before, but by Tuesday she was taken in an ambulance and swabbed [for a coronavirus test] that day.???

Sarah Ashley recorded a video to Facebook
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Sarah Ashley recorded a video to Facebook. Photograph: Sarah Ashley/Facebook

Self-isolating at home with her five-year-old son, Ashley had no choice but to soldier on. ???I was taking some paracetamol and trying to get on with it really,??? she remembers. ???It felt like there was something in there . All the time my body was feeling that it was fighting something off but I didn???t know what.???

Her symptoms came and went, she lost her appetite, but things were never so severe that she felt unable to cope. Even with her son to look after, she was able to continue working from home.

In any other year, Ashley might have written off such an illness as a seasonal bug ??? were it not for her friend???s condition. ???It made me think: shit, that???s probably what I???ve had over the last week, without it being confirmed.??? As the week wore on and Ashley recovered, her friend ??? who asked not to be named ??? deteriorated. On Monday she was moved to intensive care. Seven days after she was swabbed, her coronavirus test came back positive.

What is most troubling for Ashley is the thought that she might have spread the virus. ???It???s horrible, it???s a horrible thought, which is why I isolated immediately. It???s been horrible thinking I have potentially given that to my friend and she???s in the ICU ??? and also who else have I given it to? I don???t know.???

Ashley works with families on the edge of care. She uses public transport, she is in and out of people???s homes, she works in schools. In the week she first began to suffer symptoms, she had been in a GP???s surgery waiting room supporting a young person. She doesn???t know where she caught it nor, more crucially, where she may have spread it.

Last week, as the UK authorities issued ever more urgent advice to begin social distancing and take care over hygiene, Ashley ??? following developments from her self-quarantine ??? was furious to see people flouting the rules. She recorded a video and posted it to Facebook to urge friends to follow the advice.

???It???s crazy. It???s absolutely terrifying,??? she says. ???Have they not seen what???s going on in Italy? Stop fucking about and stay at home.???

On Tuesday night, Ashley???s friend was moved out of intensive care. She is now beginning to recover.