It came as a shock to Nadine Dorries to find that she had tested positive for coronavirus, but even more concerning was that her 84-year-old mother was staying with her for a few weeks, thus increasing the chances that she too might be infected. Her mother had “survived polio, rheumatic fever, major heart surgery and a world war,” wrote Dorries in The Sunday Times. But she was not in the best of health.
Dorries said that she did not really care to get tested. She had been home for several days, feeling a bit unwell, and self-isolating just to be sure. But it was for the sake of her mother that she decided to get tested for coronavirus.
When Dorries pulled up to the coronavirus test site, she described it as resembling “the tyre-change bay at my local garage.” She was told sternly not to get out of her car. Two nurses, dressed head to toe in protective gear, finally emerged to retrieve cultures from her right nostril and back of her throat.
When the phone rang with the test results, Dorries described how she was halfway through a cough and partially asleep, leaving her mother “dozing in the wing-backed chair in front of the fire, a blanket over her knees.” She was not so much concerned with her own results as potentially passing them on to her elderly mother.
It was Professor Keith Willett with NHS England who would be the one to deliver the verdict: “I’m afraid to tell you you have tested positive for Covid-19.” Dorries wrote that the professor’s words had the quality of “iced water trickling down my spine.” But it was not that Dorries feared for her own health or life. The only thought that raced through her mind in that moment was “my mum is going to get it and it’s my fault.”
The standard symptoms quickly followed—the fever, dry coughing, aching body, and intermittent sweats throughout the night. Dorries wrote that the cough was so bad that she will probably have a “residual cough for six weeks while my lungs recover.” Although her symptoms were not mild, they were certainly not as severe as other cases around the world.
Dorries' mother, after having a strong cough and a fever for one day, was tested and found positive for coronavirus. But the symptoms her mother had were much more mild, even with “her having had major surgery to replace the valves in her heart damaged by childhood illness, despite her pacemaker and breathlessness, her lifetime of smoking, hard work in her early years and poor diet.”
Despite her positive test, Dorries' mum was still active around the house. As she ran the vacuum, she told her daughter “We old northerners are made of much tougher stuff than you young ones."