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My journey with Long COVID continued

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March 12th 2020 and I just don’t feel right. Around me, the world is slowing down and everyone is talking COVID 19. 730ish in the evening and smack, I ache, my head hurts and my temperature shoots straight up.

My first thought was not to panic. Panic is a strange reaction to being ill especially when you are a health care professional but, in a pandemic, and having seen the news from around the world, it would only be natural.

That’s where my journey with Covid began. Little did I know that I would end up battling Long COVID.

For those of you that don’t know what Long COVID is, the NHS website answers this question. It states ‘Most people with coronavirus (COVID- 19) feel better within a few days or weeks of their symptoms and make a full recovery within 12 weeks. For some people, symptoms can last longer. This is called Long Covid or post COVID -19 syndrome. Long COVID is a new condition which is still being studied’.

It goes on to list the symptoms of Long COVID. Those been extreme tiredness (fatigue), shortness of breath, loss of smell and muscle aches being the most common. It also states that you can have lots of other symptoms after a COVID-19 infection. Many of those reported are :

  • Problems with your memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
  • Chest pain and tightness
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Pins and needles
  • Joint pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Tinnitus, earaches
  • Feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • A high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • Rashes

In my journey with Long COVID I experienced many but not all of the above and I also had additional symptoms too. Some studies into long COVID list more than 200 symptoms! I started to have falls, and allergic reactions to all sorts of things! I also had an aversion to food. I would want to eat but as soon as I saw food, I would feel sick. Let’s just say there was a period of time when food shopping was a challenge.

When I first realised that I wasn’t recovering from COVID-19 I couldn’t find any information and to be honest It felt like I wasn’t believed by my GP surgery. In my usual way I decided to find a solution that worked for me. Now I’m not recommending my approach and I must reinforce its really important to check out all of your symptoms with your GP and if your feel not heard, then try again.

Thankfully Long COVID is very much believed now and Drs and scientists are learning more every day. Whilst thinking about writing this article, I found myself wondering how many people employed in the NHS and or Social care were reported to be experiencing symptoms of Long COVID. I found some data on the NHS England website which is 12 months old now. It states that ‘as of 2nd October 2022, an estimated 1.2 million people living in private households in the UK (1.9% of the population) were experiencing Long COVID ‘ . It goes on to say that the figures had increased from 1.1 million in the previous month. On the Official for National Statistics site, it says that ‘an estimated 2.3 million people living in private households in the UK were experiencing self-reporting long COVID symptoms as of the 3rd September 2022’. So, information specifically relating to health workers show that as of the 18th May 2021, estimates by the Office of National Statistics suggest that 122,000 health care workers and 31,000 social care workers were self-reporting symptoms of long COVID. To be frank its going to be much higher now based on the overall increase in numbers. I have spoken to many colleagues who still have challenges with Long COVID, so if I know many, there has to be more than the figures suggest.

As I’m writing this article, I think its important for me to say how I am now as of November 2022. I’m fine yet I wasn’t a few weeks ago and that’s the thing. One minute you think you are fine, and you get on with life, and then the next minute, the exhaustion like you’ve never felt before takes over. I can’t even compare it to the exhaustion I felt as a first-time mum! This was worse! For me I have recently discovered that Peri menopause was making things much harder of late and that’s the thing. A lot of the symptoms can come from other health conditions, and a lot of the symptoms are made worse by other health conditions. So, its exceptionally important that medical support is sought.

One of the biggest things that has helped me has been my mindset. All of my training I have implemented and I have prioritised me. If I need to rest, I do. ‘So what if the house isn’t sparkly and clean, it doesn’t matter because I don’t have the energy to entertain any way’.

If you are a professional in social care and are wondering how you can support your colleagues here’s a few tips. The first step is to believe them. Long COVID is real and it feels dreadful at times. Ensure that you follow all your work policies and procedures and listen to the staff member. That 6-letter word is essential. Understand that you may need to consider the Disability discrimination act 1995 and also the requirements around supporting mental ill health in the work place. Find out what works for the person, find out what they can do as well as what they can’t. Sign post them to information and support them with hospital /Drs appointments by not making it difficult for them to have the time off. Check in with them regularly and ensure that you keep a record for you both of those chats. Lastly, if you don’t know what to do, ask! You can even reach out to myself as I’m always willing to listen.

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