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‘The fatigue has lasted for months and months’: Meet the 'long haulers' living with the long-term impact of Covid-19

They call themselves the 'long-haulers' or 'long-tail'; around the world thousands are discovering Covid-19 doesn't always come and go in two weeks. Sophie Gallagher speaks to those struggling to be heard as their symptoms drag on for months

Friday 12 June 2020 22:02

By day four of presenting with coronavirus symptoms, on 19 March, Tobi Rachel Akingbade, from London, felt so scared she called NHS 111. The 28-year-old, who believes she contracted the virus from colleagues who tested positive (although she herself was never tested) says she felt like “she’d been run over by a truck and then thrown off a cliff” – even the muscles in her face ached and her eyes hurt. Tobi, who has no underlying health conditions, says she was told by the operator to call back only if she stopped breathing.

By day 13, after spending two weeks self-isolating, Tobi thought she might be strong enough to step into her garden. She managed to take one deep breath of air before going back inside. At this point most medical advice suggests she should have been coming to the end of her symptoms: the NHS says people should isolate for just 7 days (although continue if symptoms persist) or 14 days if they are asymptomatic but have been in contact with a carrier or are awaiting test results.

It wasn’t until day 30 before Tobi says her body even started to “feel normal again”. When I speak to her on 10 June – three months later – she is still not back to full health. She tells me how she continues to struggle with breathing; suffers from flashbacks of gasping for air; has to gather enough energy to get to the toilet; and needs to wear sunglasses to open the bedroom curtains and let in the light. “I would not wish this on my worst enemy. I lost days of my life to this virus and I am aware of how I was very close to death.”

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