Having survived a cement truck on top of me, I wasn’t inclined to let the lingering effects of an extended dust-up with Covid-19 (diagnosed by GP but not tested for because you couldn’t get them for love nor money at the time) stop me living my life.
Three months on, I’m having to face up to a hard truth: I’m still struggling.
The last lingering symptom is a nagging fatigue that’s frequently with me throughout the day. This is not just ordinary tiredness. I know what that’s like. It’s an energy-sapping, demoralising exhaustion that makes it feel as if my eyes have weights attached to them, and my muscles too.
That being the case, the Royal College of GPs’ call for more support for people left chronically ill by the virus is something I wanted to cheer.
Three weeks after the virus hit, my wife and I felt a bit like freaks of nature.
We were neither of us ill enough to be taken into hospital, although I now think she might have been. At the time you had to be in a truly desperate state in London to get traction with NHS 111, but the GP was sufficiently concerned to follow up our phone appointment by calling back twice during the course of our worst day.
The problem was that even after we’d both got through the horror movie fear-inducing ‘Christ what happens if this gets worse’ stage, the symptoms flatly refused to depart. They were a bit like the obnoxious drunken Brexiteer who gatecrashes your party and refuses to leave until he’s explained to you in great detail why he thinks Nigel Farage should get a knighthood. They stayed. And they stayed. And they stayed.
The airy advice about how Covid should be over in a week produced only bitter laughter in our household, except that laughing isn’t all that easy when you’re contending with breathlessness, headache, feeling sick, a lack of appetite and that damnably dry cough.
There were times when we were both left feeling as if we’d never get well.
Worse still was the fact that very few people seemed to recognise this. Bizarrely, the soothing balm came from Twitter. That’s right – Twitter: the spiky ball of darkness, fury and Donald Trump. It produced a virtual hug from people who were similarly suffering when I wrote about my experiences.
The GPs’ comments show that the medical profession is starting to wake up to the fact that while a fairly small proportion of people who get the virus suffer like this, that adds up to an awful lot of us. The long-haulers club has a big membership.
Lynne Turner-Stokes, professor of rehabilitation medicine at King's College London, told the BBC that "we have to do much more".
She said: "For people who have never been to hospital, nobody's looked properly at their lungs, their hearts and so on.”
Someone. Needs. To. Listen. To. Her.
Someone like maybe Matt Hancock, when he’s finished kissing Bozza’s shoes and completed the job of making himself look like an unprincipled a**e in front of the media (watch him trying to defend the appointment of seemingly homophobic misogynist Tony Abbott as a trade guru for a good recent example).
But, hey, if the NHS could move itself without the assistance of Matty Shoe Polish Tongue, that’d do just fine too.
I’ve read the reports from the US of quite young, very fit people, athletes in fact, experiencing heart problems. Others have had trouble with their lungs.
For myself, I don’t think I’ve anything other than the fatigue to handle, although I have to confess, I’m not handling it very well. It’s getting to me. I sometimes feel like screaming.
I do, however, find it interesting that my resting heart rate, tracked by a Fitbit, is quite a bit (roughly 10 per cent) higher than what it usually ran at before the virus roared in.
It’s the sort of thing anyone would probably, you know, want to get checked out. Perhaps that will now start to happen.
In the meantime, I at least have a very good GP.
“You’ve been very ill. You need to pace yourself,” she said. She’d also likely have told me to stop knocking back espresso as if it were on a drip feed – had I confessed to this. Trouble is, while I’m aware that it’s generally considered counterproductive when dealing with post viral fatigue, caffeine is sometimes the only thing that gets me through the day, and it has fuelled this column.
I’m lucky to have her because at least she listens, understands, believes and doesn’t dismiss what I’m experiencing. Some long-haulers aren’t so lucky. They need help. We all of us do.
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