Owen Butler is one of 114 Canberrans who has experienced COVID-19 first-hand.

Owen Butler is one of 114 Canberrans who has experienced COVID-19 first-hand.

06 November 2020

“One of the things we noticed is that we had both felt older. We felt 10 years older, we felt more like our physical age. Before that we felt healthy, we felt full of energy and beans. And afterwards you feel more fatigued, more tired. You’ve got the COVID brain, where it’s like cotton wool in your head and you just don’t feel 100%. That’s a really common outcome for a lot of people.”

Owen and Anna* Butler were on the European trip of a lifetime to visit their daughter living overseas, when stories of COVID-19 began to surface.

“20/20 hindsight we probably shouldn’t have gone to Spain,” Owen said.

“That’s the understatement of the year,” Anna joked.

“We were also in desperate need of a holiday, and we were so looking forward to travelling and seeing our daughter, and [COVID-19] didn’t seem that bad at the time,” Owen said.

The Butlers were forced to cut their trip short, heading straight into two weeks’ isolation when they arrived back home in Canberra. However, within 24 hours they were so unwell that they alerted their GP and got tested for COVID-19.

“It become particularly obvious to me [that we had COVID-19] because my brain tried to climb out of my ears and my eyes. I had these massive headaches where it felt like my brain was trying to explode,” Owen said.

Owen and Anna, both aged in their 60s, experienced different symptoms of the illness.

“I had diarrhea and a really upset stomach, Owen didn’t get that … same virus but different symptoms,” Anna said.

The couple were so unwell and lethargic that they spent most of their time sleeping, and if they had the energy, they would lay on the lounge for a change of scenery.

“The other thing we noticed, which is really, really common, is the loss of smell and taste … zero appetite,” Owen said.

“How to lose 10 kilos in two weeks … I’m not recommending it. We became skeletal, like we barely recognised each other into week three,” Anna said.

Owen described COVID-19 as “far more insidious” than the common cold.

“The ‘back to normal thing’ doesn’t seem to happen in the same way … you don’t feel normal [after COVID-19],” he said.

“And the speed at which it gets you, is just dynamite, we had symptoms in hindsight within 48 hours of coming in contact with it, we just didn’t realise … the day we pretty much got back [to Canberra], that afternoon, we were just different people, it was that quick,” Anna said.

Next week, Owen and Anna will talk us through their recovery from the illness, and life post COVID-19.

For more information on COVID-19 symptoms, and when to get tested, visit covid19.act.gov.au/testing

*Not her real name.

All Canberra

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