"taking a breath became as hard as climbing a mountain."
Ria Lakhani suffered a severe case of COVID-19. She is now recovering but has said that she has to remember to breathe.
In self-isolation, she still cannot hug her husband or see her parents and siblings and she still wakes up at night struggling to breathe.
Ria said: “It used to be such a natural action but now I have to remember how to inhale and exhale.”
She had been admitted to hospital for an operation when she started to show Coronavirus symptoms.
In 2013, Ria was diagnosed with a rare condition which makes swallowing difficult and means she often regurgitates solids.
The surgery was set to help her manage achalasia.
She stressed that her condition had made her especially careful about looking after her health.
While recovering in hospital, she began struggling with her breathing. Ria then developed a temperature.
She was tested for COVID-19 as a precaution as it was hoped that it was just a side-effect of her surgery.
Ria then wrote on Facebook:
“My room was now cordoned off and the rest of the ward evacuated.
“I closed down an entire ward?! I miss my family so much. With COVID-19 tests so limited I felt ashamed I was being given a swab so quickly when there are others who were more likely to have it.
“I was certain I was clear. I followed all guidelines.”
However, she tested positive for the virus.
As Ria’s condition deteriorated and she required more oxygen, she was transferred to one of London’s major COVID-19 treatment centres.
She recalled the concerned looks on the doctors’ faces, as her body tried to fight off the virus.
Ria revealed that what she went through has changed her.
“Things went from bad to worse – taking a breath became as hard as climbing a mountain.
“I could see the more and more concerned looks on the faces of the many heroes treating me. More and more doctors looking in, murmuring to each other – observations taken every minute and scrutinised incessantly.
“Scary, uncertainty, unnerving, so many feelings, so many thoughts in my head, questions I was scared to hear the answers to.”
Ria’s health eventually improved and she was discharged from hospital. She told the BBC:
“I almost died.
“I almost didn’t come out of there. There was a point when I actually started to write difficult messages to my family.
“I almost died now I’m alive. How can life go back to normal after that?”
Ria revealed that she can hear a “crackling sound in her lungs”.
The patient has had a slow recovery. In hospital, she could barely move and was given morphine as well as the oxygen because of the pain.
“Getting a sentence out was like running a marathon.”
Despite the ordeal, there was hope as Ria had developed a bond with a 96-year-old woman named Iris, who was in the bed next to her.
Ria added: “I needed her as much as she needed me.”
She also found hope in the little acts of kindness by the medical staff.
“It was the small wins and things like the nurses making sure Iris had a constant supply of hot tea and a sneaky extra slice of cake that made me smile.”
While at home, Ria has to maintain a distance from her husband and continues to suffer from repeated coughing.
But she is relieved that she survived, given the number of fatalities.
“There was a point in this journey that I didn’t know if I would see the light of day again.
“Nothing was certain, and even though I’ve always known how much I love my family – in those moments I learned how much I need them.
“I can’t explain the moment I left the hospital, I’ll never take anything for granted again.”