Dr Miriam Stoppard feared she would die after catching coronavirus due to lung condition

What I thought was a bad ­attack of flu at the beginning of February left me too weak to stand, let alone walk.

When I did finally get out of bed I was as weak as a kitten and had ­developed a chest infection.

Walking to the kitchen exhausted me.

My tiredness was absolute. I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other for more than two weeks.

Afterwards I remember dragging my feet along the street and having to cling on to the railings.

All this time a diagnosis of Covid-19 never occurred to me.

We’ve forgotten but the first official case in the UK was confirmed in York on January 31 and the ­symptoms weren’t clear.

No one, including the Government, was taking Covid seriously.

At that time the WHO had designated the virus an epidemic. It didn’t become a pandemic till March 11.

I didn’t know anyone who’d had Covid and I hadn’t been in contact with anyone who’d had it.

It didn’t occur to me I’d had the virus. With hindsight it all fits – but it didn’t then.

Reading this you may be ­incredulous that I, as a doctor, didn’t realise I might have Covid.

One of the reasons I didn’t think I had the coronavirus was because of my age and my lung condition (pulmonary fibrosis). A virus that was destroying lungs would surely have destroyed mine.

The death rate in the over-80s with comorbidities is 90%.

I’d said from the beginning that if I contracted Covid I’d die. I didn’t see how I would survive it with my lungs.

The fact that I was still alive meant, to me, what I’d had wasn’t Covid.

With the news that I have antibodies there was relief all around.

Well, yes, but more than relief I feel a sense of liberation, not physical but emotional and psychological, knowing my immune system took care of me. I feel like celebrating my body’s resilience.

Looking back I’m more than a bit uncomfortable that I could have infected people in the incubation period before I had symptoms.

However, my husband stayed Covid-free and his antibody test was negative.

There must be many people around the country like me. My experience shows dramatically why we need reliable countrywide testing systems to control this virus and lead us out of lockdown back to normal life.

But, we don’t know how long ­antibodies last, so in six months’ time mine may have disappeared and I will have lost any immunity I ever had.