Some can barely walk, they are so exhausted and their muscles so weak. Many have lost the ability to recall everyday facts or have a conversation. Others have developed life-threatening allergies or chronic dizziness.
All have suffered from illness for months – careers are disrupted, social life is mothballed, and family life is a shadow of what it was.
It was these personal experiences that made 39 of & # 39; long Covid & # 39; prompted affected doctors to write a joint letter that was recently published in the BMJ calling for more help for those affected.
GP Tanya Northridge, 40, said Covid had changed her life and she couldn't walk more than 200 meters without feeling tired and dizzy
These weren't people who'd fought for life with a ventilator. Some initially had hardly any symptoms of Covid 19 infection and none had to be hospitalized.
However, most are more affected by their symptoms after Covid today than when they had the infection.
The vast majority had previously been fit, young people. But many are now wondering if they will ever be fine again.
There is no formal definition of long Covid, although a paper recently published in the BMJ defines it as symptoms that last longer than three months.
The number of people affected in this country has already exceeded 60,000 according to the first results of the UK Covid Symptom Study (which is carried out by King & # 39; s College London, where people enter their symptoms via an app).
"When (long Covid) affects 10 percent of the population (as one study suggests) and we never get better – and go from economically active to long-term inactive and incapacitated – even if you remove human suffering, this is something that is political Decision makers need to consider, ”said Dr. Jake Suett, 32, an anesthetist who initiated the letter, told Good Health.
In their letter, doctors say anyone who has Covid symptoms should be treated for the infection, even if they don't get a positive test result.
They also call for one-stop clinics where health professionals can gather expertise on how to manage persistent symptoms.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock had said clinics would open, but last week his predecessor Jeremy Hunt tweeted that he was "very concerned" at hearing of delays.
There are several theories about the cause of long covid. Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, believes the infection triggers an autoimmune reaction in which the immune system attacks parts of the body.
He cites the example of the Chikungunya virus, caused by a mosquito bite. "Some patients get better within a few days; others have incredibly disabled arthritis years later because the infection attacked the joints," he says.
Here nine of the signatories of the letter sent to the BMJ, all of whom were infected with the infection in March, tell their stories.
DO NOT WORK FOR MONTHS AT THE END
Caitriona Dynan, 49, is a consultant radiologist at Antrim Hospital in Northern Ireland. She is married to Kieran, 46, a general practitioner. They have an 11 year old son and an 8 year old daughter.
Caitriona Dynan, 49, a consulting radiologist at Antrim Hospital in Northern Ireland, said her symptoms started with a terrible sore throat
Recently my son said to me, “Mom, you are not feeling better, are you? Will you die? & # 39; I was able to calm him down, but it was a difficult few months.
My symptoms started with a terrible sore throat – like swallowing a sword – the worst kind of muscle pain and hypothermia (severe chills). My temperature was low, except for 35, which seems to happen in some Covid cases.
After getting over the initial infection, I had a terrible headache for weeks and found that if I stepped outside and shot back inside, my temperature would rise. During the summer heatwave, I needed a heater next to my bed because my feet and legs just wouldn't warm up.
One day I got up and went white as a sheet and dizzy – since then I've been diagnosed with PoTS (Postural Tachycardia Syndrome). It affects the autonomic nervous system, which regulates heart rate and temperature regulation.
One theory is that Covid damages the nerves. I had other problems too – a strange numbness in one foot. I also can't concentrate and had to spend a lot more time in bed than I would like.
And I developed allergies for the first time in my life. I had a scan to look for blood clots in the lungs and I had a reaction to the contrast dye they use – which is very rare. My eyelids and lips were swollen and I had to go to A&E for high-dose antihistamines.
I haven't been able to pay as much attention to the kids as I would like and I really miss my job.
I signed the letter as I was concerned about reports that patients with long symptoms of Covid were being discharged. We need to spread awareness that it is a real problem for many who, like me, surely wish this could be over.
Jake Suett, 32, is an anesthetist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King & # 39; s Lynn.
Jake Suett, 32, an anesthetist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, said he was getting so breathless he had to walk slowly through the store
I went to the gym three or four times a week. Now I have to plan how to get around Sainsbury's.
I get so breathless that I have to bring my car to the front door and slowly walk through the store. I had worked with patients with Covid so it was no surprise when I felt a cold.
On the tenth day of the illness, I lay on my stomach gasping for breath. Still, Covid and antibody tests were both negative weeks later. It didn't surprise me as the tests were calibrated on hospital patients who may be producing more antibodies.
Months later I'm still breathless. I regularly get palpitations and waves of tiredness. I'm okay for a minute, then it's like the click of my fingers and I feel an overwhelming need to sleep.
In the first three months I also had waves of diarrhea – now recognized as a symptom of Covid.
I think Covid will be a lasting effect of the pandemic for a long time. We need to start collecting data so that we can use it properly.
I can no longer feel my FAT
Nathalie MacDermott, 38, is an academic clinical lecturer at King & # 39; s College London.
Nathalie MacDermott, 38, an academic clinical lecturer at King & # 39; s College London, said she had been referred to a neurologist
There have been times in the past few months when I've thought, "What's happening to me?" I have a numb feeling in my palms and one day in May I suddenly couldn't feel the soles of my feet. It was the strangest feeling and pretty scary.
It means that I am trying not to drive. And while I used to run two miles to work, now I can't walk more than 200 meters and my back pain is constant.
I was referred to a neurologist who thinks I may have inflammation in my spinal cord.
I was expecting to get Covid at some point (I was working as a junior infectious disease doctor in a London hospital in March) and thought it might be awkward for a while, but that would be it.
In fact, I was back to work after a few weeks. Then in May my temperature rose again and I got weird pain in my feet and general joint pain. Then came the numbness.
Before that when I left I passed everyone; Everyone is overtaking me now. My muscles no longer have the strength they used to have.
Covid isn't just mild or severe. There are also people like me who don't go to the hospital and end up somewhere in between. We urgently need more research on this.
Random fever for months
Sarah Burns, 41, is a GP in Southampton.
When she first got Covid, 41-year-old Sarah Burns, a general practitioner in Southampton, was in bed for two to three weeks
Earlier this year I was so tired for two months that I lay on the sofa all day. The only way to do simple tasks like washing up was to rest in the middle.
To put this into perspective, not only did I previously run a busy job as a general practitioner, but I also ran 10km regularly and had a great social life. I was hardly ever there.
The first time I got Covid, I was bedridden for two to three weeks, but after that I went back to work.
However, five weeks later I realized that I was not doing well. I would have a random fever – my temperature would suddenly rise to 38 ° C – switching it on and off for 14 weeks. And I had palpitations for about six weeks. When I measured my heart rate, it would be 160 beats per minute at rest – usually 55.
I was referred for ongoing checkups, including with a cardiologist, and was told it could be six to nine months before I get back to my former physical strength.
I signed the letter because as doctors we have a strong voice. But this is not just for us; We need to raise awareness of all with long covid, some of whom are unable to navigate the system the way we can.
I felt like I was run over
Tanya Northridge, 40, is a GP at Brixton. She lives in Sydenham in south east London with her husband and two children, ages seven and four.
Dr. Northridge said she got sick in March and was back at work in just two weeks
Having Covid changed my life. Not only am I unemployed, I also can't walk more than 200 meters without feeling tired and dizzy.
I can't do the school run, I can't take my kids to the park, and I can't make long phone calls without getting a headache.
I cannot do upright exercise. Before that, I was constantly on the move, running tennis three times a week – sometimes up to eight miles – playing 12-hour workdays and looking after my children.
After getting sick in March, I was back at work in two weeks and felt 100 percent better in April and May.
Then in June I had a painful headache and fever that came and went. When I got a second wave a week later, my GP referred me for chest x-rays, abdominal exams and other blood tests, as well as a Covid antibody test that came back negative.
But tiredness hit me at home. I didn't have the strength to move my arms or legs. I felt like I had been run over and my mind wasn't working properly. I once argued with my husband about the order of the coming months – I was convinced that June would come before March.
In darker moments I wondered if I might have something else, maybe a brain abscess.
If I'm optimistic, I hope I'll be better in 12 months. But on my pessimistic days I get tearful and worry that it will never go away.
I have had patients who have been virtually disabled or home-based from post-viral chronic fatigue. I pray this won't happen to me.
CONCENTRATION AND MEMORY DAMAGED
Grace Dolman, 40, is a hepatologist (liver specialist) at Addenbrooke & # 39; s Hospital in Cambridge.
Grace Dolman, 40, a hepatologist (liver specialist) at Addenbrooke & # 39; s Hospital, Cambridge, returned to work in May but was exhausted
When I got a cough in March, I didn't even feel sick, but was sent home from work. But on the tenth day, I couldn't even eat without taking a breath.
I returned to work in May but was exhausted by the time I got to the station. One day, the physical exertion of going from station to station almost dissolved into tears.
I had to quit work at the end of June.
I'm so tired all the time that I sleep from 11 p.m. to 7.30 a.m. and still need a two-hour nap in the afternoon. I had to stop going to the grocery store as I was exhausted deciding what to buy.
My concentration and memory are still bad: I put milk in the cupboard. I also developed pens and needles in my feet and fingers.
That destroyed my trust. My words do not come easily, so it is difficult to speak to friends.
I'll be sick until the end of October. I had just qualified as a consultant and in this case I should find a higher position. I feel like I've gone from being a good candidate for a consultant to being a lame duck.
If I were a mother with children to look after, or a carer – and there have to be many in my situation – I don't know how I would deal with it. My heart goes out to them.
HIT BY SEVERE ALLERGIES
Dr. Jenny Judge, 48, is an NHS forensic psychiatrist and mother of one from Epsom, Surrey.
Dr. Jenny Judge, 48, is an NHS forensic psychiatrist and mother of one from Epsom, Surrey. She tried three times and failed to return to work
One evening in July I was relaxing in the bathroom when I swallowed some water. In a matter of seconds my throat swelled and I gasped for breath. Fearing I might die, I jumped out of the bathroom and swallowed some anti-histamine pills.
Doctors later told me it was almost certainly a severe allergic reaction to the Epsom salts I added to the bath and that Covid-19 had somehow messed up my immune system so it was now overreacting to things it was never had before. Other than hay fever, I have never suffered from allergies.
My GP prescribed me an EpiPen and referred me to an immunologist. In the meantime, I had a second life-threatening reaction in mid-September after eating hazelnuts – something I've done many times with no problem. Now I'm worried, what else am I at risk from?
Four weeks after getting Covid-19, I felt good enough to get back to work. But as soon as I did, my temperature rose and the racing heart I had when I was sick returned.
Over the weeks, I developed sore and sore wrists, shoulders, and knees, and severe swelling in my feet and hands. I could barely hold a cup of tea.
My GP gave me naproxen – an anti-inflammatory pain reliever – which relieved the swelling, and referred me to a rheumatologist. It is believed that Covid-19 can overreact the immune system and attack healthy joint tissue, similar to rheumatoid arthritis.
In June I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance with vomiting and excruciating abdominal pain – like giving birth. A CT scan showed that I had an inflamed gallbladder. Still, there were no signs of gallstones, the usual trigger. Again, the evidence pointed to Covid-19.
I spent four days in the hospital on morphine for the pain. Meanwhile my heart problems continue.
I tried three times and failed to get back to work. It's like my brain is in a fog and I can't process anything.
Most people don't get Covid for long, but we urgently need to start tracking those who do.
NEEDED MAINTENANCE FOR THREE MONTHS
Clare Rayner, 52, is an occupational health practitioner at the University of Manchester and lives in Altrincham, Cheshire.
Clare Rayner, 52, an occupational health consultant at the University of Manchester, said she was so weakened by the virus that until recently she needed nurses to help with the basics
I get chest pain and breathless when I walk a minimal distance. I tried a bike ride but didn't have the strength to hit the pedals.
The irony is that when I developed corona-like symptoms, I thought, "Oh, well – got that out of the way."
Shortly after the first Covid I got severe diarrhea, vomiting, shortness of breath and a temperature of 38.3 ° C. I was taken to the hospital by ambulance but they decided not to keep me.
My temperature would come and go.
I was so weakened from all of this that until recently I needed caregivers to help with the basics.
I have underlying health problems: a chronic infection in my spine that caused me to quit being a full-time clinician in 2012; and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects connective tissue but has otherwise previously taken care of myself.
When I saw all the other signatures on the letter, I found it quite emotional. We are only the tip of the iceberg for those affected.
Suffers with wild tremors and feels emotionally fragile
From Pat Hagan
Ian Frayling, 61, is a recently retired NHS genetic researcher. He lives with his wife Ann, Professor of Cellular Immunology and Immunotherapy at Cardiff University, in the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales.
Ian Frayling, 61, a recently retired NHS genetic researcher, said he still hasn't recovered seven months later
A few weeks ago I was going to buy new shoes when I suddenly started shaking uncontrollably. I felt completely drained of all energy. It took all of my exertion to get back to the car, which was only half a mile away.
On another occasion I tried to buy eggs in the supermarket. But as I stood in front of the shelf, I was overwhelmed by a sudden brain fog that made me unable to decide how many to buy.
Such incidents have become the norm since I contracted Covid-19. I went out for coffee and lost my appetite, but within a few days the storm really hit: a fiery fever and a cough so severe that I passed out several times.
Next came the breathing problems that made me gasp. Seven months later, I still haven't fully recovered.
At times I have deep breathlessness – even with the slightest effort – fast heart rate, my muscles feel like putty and brain fog.
I also get nausea, irritable bowel syndrome, and hypoglycemia – where I suddenly feel my blood sugar level drop, making me weak and shaky.
Then there are the mental health effects.
I'm not ashamed to say that this made me feel fragile.
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