Gasping for breath and struggling to speak, Andy Hardwick can barely keep his head upright as he describes the coronavirus symptoms he is experiencing.
The 51-year-old is normally fit and healthy, visiting the gym at least three times a week, and suffering from asthma only occasionally. But he has been completely floored by Covid-19, and his friends and family urged him to make a video to show others how serious the illness can be.
“My spine hurts, my back hurts, my neck hurts. You don’t want to talk, you get shortness of breath if you move around, and you don’t want to lift your head off a pillow,” Hardwick explained in the video, which has been shared on Facebook over 37,000 times.
In it, he lies back in a grey hoodie, fighting to keep his eyes open as he talks in short bursts to the camera. “It does come in waves, you will feel slight relief sometimes, then it will go … This really hurts, it’s like nothing I’ve ever had before, I wouldn’t wish it on my enemy,” said Hardwick.
According to Hardwick’s wife, Nicola, many friends have said they didn’t even recognise Andy in the video. “It was like everything had just left him, all the energy,” she said.
Hardwick, a father of two from Wickford, Essex, said the illness started on Friday with a “very dry cough” which made his throat sore. “You start to feel generally crappy and then you’ll find your lungs will tighten,” he described.
He wasn’t suffering from a fever initially, so he went to bed expecting the symptoms to pass. However, he woke up a few hours later with a temperature, unable to breathe properly. “[I was] sweaty, clammy but freezing – I couldn’t get warm and I had a raging thirst.”
After calling 111, he was assessed by a doctor over the phone who said his symptoms suggested he did have Covid-19, and he was instructed to call back if his breathing deteriorated and he was in need of hospital treatment.
Although paracetamol helped to reduce his temperature, his preventative asthma pump did little to help his breathing difficulties, he said.
“If you get the cough, it’s very painful, and if you feel the need to laugh, don’t, because it’s very painful.”
His family think he probably picked up the virus while travelling to London, where he works as head of repairs and operations at Camden council, although he had been working from home since 18 March.
On Wednesday morning, Nicola said Andy’s state had improved and he was starting to breathe more easily, a welcome development after days of watching her husband suffer. “It is hard because you just want to give him a hug and you can’t. I must admit I was very scared with the way he was,” she told the Guardian.
She said she never expected the video to go viral, but is glad it has made an impact, having received many messages from people saying they’re going to change their behaviour as a result. “You do think you’re invincible. You think: ‘Oh, if I get it, I’ll be ok, I’m fit.’ But this virus doesn’t really care whether you’re fit or young or old,” Nicola said.
“Everyone seems to get [coronavirus] different. Some get it mild, some get it very strong, some are hospitalised, and that’s the scary part, not knowing how you are going to be when you get it.”
The video concludes with Hardwick’s plea to the general public. “Please stay away from each other, respect each other. If our parents or grandparents get this, and they’re vulnerable or not fit, I’d hate to think what it will do to them. They will become a statistic. Stay safe.”