Long Covid shines a light on western medicine’s weaknesses

Western culture has become so steeped in its current thinking that to suggest physical symptoms may not always have a direct physical correlation is, for many, a provocation. Alastair Santhouse reports

Saturday 27 November 2021 23:01
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<p>Long Covid has exacerbated the grey area where the illness lies, between the mind and body </p>

Long Covid has exacerbated the grey area where the illness lies, between the mind and body

As I walked her up the flight of stairs to my clinic room, Victoria* barely engaged with my small talk. I glanced back at her. Above her mask, she looked strained, miserable, and I saw that her reticence was because she was ready to burst into tears. I thought one more question might have tipped her over the edge, so we continued in silence until we reached the sanctuary of the outpatient room.

The tears were not long in coming. She told me that early in the pandemic, before Covid testing was widely available, she’d had what was assumed to be a mild case of the illness. Her doctor advised her to stay at home, which was the standard advice to everyone at that early stage of the pandemic. For the next few days, she lay in bed. A week passed, then two, and then steadily the weeks turned to months.

“I had long Covid before it had a name,” she told me. Yet even after it had a name, even after she had been assessed, X-rayed, had an MRI and countless blood tests, she was little better off. And even once people started talking about it, the name “long Covid” offered no clues about how this illness was to be treated, how long it might last, or what the future would now hold for those with it. And so at each clinic appointment – “Good news! Your lung function tests are completely normal!” – Victoria began to feel more adrift. If they couldn’t find anything wrong with her, how was this ever going to be fixed?

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