December 8, 2023

Readers mail…..
From Mike Phillips…..

Hello Chris,

Imagine this!  You are in a lockdown situation.  Your hygiene is highly tuned and practiced.  The wearing of masks, lots of antibacterial soaps, and social distancing, you’ve nailed it.   But then your room-mate, who is very happy with your commitment, sadly doesn’t reciprocate, until one day, when he suddenly doesn’t feel quite so well.

This is pretty much how this article came about.  Marooned and cocooned a long way offshore, you would think we would be in a fairly safe place.  Especially as all international flights were suspended and not many people were travelling out to the rig.  Our company was doing everything it could to help keep us safe, including quarantine, PCR and antibody tests, daily temperature checks.  These were all the norm for our personnel ashore, before coming to the rig.

Then comes the proverbial ‘Room-mate’, a client service engineer who just popped down the road to lend a hand on another rig.  However, arriving there for a few days, he heard there maybe an outbreak onboard, and promptly came scuttling back to us, bringing a virus with him.  Obviously, he was the first person to become unwell and he was quickly quarantined on the rig.  He had the classic symptoms of high temperature, fever (hot and cold sweats), headaches but no cough. With no test kits available onboard, it would have been a hard call for our Doctor to make. Was this Coronavirus or just a severe flu? With the lack of a cough, Doc went with a severe flu. Several days later, four other crew members (myself included), all had similar symptoms except that I now had a chesty cough. Once again, Doc was under pressure to make an assessment.  A wrong diagnosis could potentially shut down the operation and worse, lockdown the rig. Once again, Doc went with his original diagnosis.

Now, for those that don’t know me, I am both a Mountain biker and road cyclist, during my ‘off time’ at home, and consequently I’m fairly fit. I have no idea what ‘man flu’ is and at its worst, it’s a runny nose and a headache, but never enough to keep me off my bikes. This, however, was a whole different ball game. I was unwell for 12 days and a further 14 days before I was rid of that horrible taste and climbing a flight of stairs was harder than Japanese arithmetic.  For us, it started with the headaches which quickly became, what I can only describe as a severe hangover. Offshore is a dry place, no alcohol, how utterly unfair was that!! No sudden movements or bright lights, everything was too loud, you openly plot the death of ‘the room-mate’ and you just want to curl up in a ball and sleep. Paracetamol keeps the temperature down but doesn’t begin to touch the headaches. Then there was the horrible taste in your mouth that no end of brushing could dislodge.  Everything tasted the same, so no change in the food from our catering, but you also lose your sense of smell and consequently, your appetite. I was convinced this was COVID-19, 20 & 21, as I said goodbye to 3kg in bodyweight…..

However, deemed ‘A nasty flu’, we all continued to work as normal.  Well, as normal as we could. No one wanted to be the person who shut down the rig for a flu (oh the shame and embarrassment), you’d never live that down!!!  Trapped offshore for the past 12 weeks, working 12 hours shifts, day in, day out, night in, night out, heavily fatigued, with no light at the end of the tunnel, and feeling utterly desperate.  If there is a God, we were definitely not on his Christmas card list…

Twenty weeks in and everyone had made a full recovery with no lasting ailments at the time of writing.  I’ll never know if it was due to excellent (if not a little paranoid)  hygiene practices or a good old fashioned miracle, but no one else was infected.  A few days previous, the Room-mate left the rig and was tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, as was I, this morning.

So, what did we learn from this experience? Definitely, prevention is better than a cure.   Good hygiene practices and social distancing are probably the biggest defence but you can give yourself a fighting advantage with vitamin C and D.  Get out and get some fresh air and a little sun. And if you have a Room-mate as we did, make sure you tell them to…….. Jog On!!!

Best regards,
Mike Phillips


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