“I was extremely anxious and frightened”:
Four Long Covid sufferers share their experiences of living with chronic symptoms
The individuals are among those encouraging people to get vaccinated
Many adults make a full recovery from Covid19 but for a significant number of people, the road to rehabilitation doesn’t end once they are clear of the infection. It’s estimated that over a million people in the UK continue to experience chronic symptoms – ranging from shortness of breath to extreme tiredness – for months after their body is clear of Covid disease, a condition known as Long Covid.
The issue is so concerning that £19.6 million of government fundin through the National
Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has been allocated for an extensive programme of 15 new research studies that will help improve understanding of Long Covid and identify effective treatments.
More than 47 million people in the UK have had their first dose of a Covid vaccine – that’s
nearly 90% of the adult population – there are still many who have not had one dose – leavi g them less protected against the virus and Long Covid.
We spoke to five people about their journeys with Long Covid – and the advice they would give to others.
More than a year on from when he contracted Covid19, Paresh Patel, 48, is still experiencing the aftereffects of the illness.
The dentist contracted Covid in March 2020. He first suspected he had the virus when he
experienced a fever and shortness of breath, some of the symptoms typically associated with the disease of which very little was known at the time.
While Paresh didn’t require hospitalisation, an oxygen concentrator, a device prescribed to
patients who don’t have enough oxygen in their blood, was sent to his home and he was
prescribed medication to improve his condition. Despite this, it would take around four weeks
until he started to feel slightly better. Paresh says: “When I realised I had Covid-19 I was initially a little worried but this escalated when my symptoms became much worse.”
He’s now had both doses of the vaccine and couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
“I felt very relieved for the population when the rollout occurred and definitely feel there is a
huge gain to be made from the vaccination programme,” Paresh says. “I feel reassured that with a vaccination, if I were to catch Covid again, the symptoms should not be so bad.”
Paresh isn’t alone in suffering poor health long beyond the infection is out of his system. Recent research estimates that more than 2 million people in England may have had Long Covid.
Some even experience prolonged symptoms of the virus after an initial mild case of Covid-19 disease. While information on Long Covid is limited, research shows that two doses of a Covid vaccine decreases the risk of Covid19 infection by more than 80%, therefore reducing the possibility of Long Covid.
While research into the impact of vaccines on Long Covid is ongoing, a recent report suggests that the risk of Long Covid is substantially reduced in individuals who have received double vaccination.
Data shows that across all age groups, the odds of experiencing symptoms for more than 28days after post-vaccination infection was approximately halved by two doses.
For vegan coach Heena Modi, she realised she had Long Covid during a walking trip in De on, months after she had recovered from Covid – or so she thought. The 45-year old says the condition disrupted her healthy lifestyle, making some of her favourite
“My sense of taste began to change. It started with me eating butternut squash and not being able to tolerate it. This expanded and began to include other foods, such as raw celery, cooked peppers and peanut butter,” she says.
The condition also affected her sense of smell and made it difficult for her to sleep.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to experience the ‘mild’ version of Covid that I had, let alone the Long Covid which followed. So I would urge you to be safe and seriously consider getting the
vaccine,” Heena says.
Amerjit Briah, 44, another Long Covid sufferer says she got vaccinated “in the hope that we
could rid ourselves of this terrible virus”.
Like Paresh and Heena, Amerjit’s experience of Covid disease wasn’t severe enough that she required hospitalisation but her symptoms lasted for more than a year after she contracted the virus.
“Over a year later I still haven’t fully recovered my sense of smell,” Amerjit says. “Other than my sense of smell and not being able to catch my breath – I had very little energy – I felt exhausted for months.”
Being healthy and fit didn’t stop Aarti Sawhney, 39, from contracting Covid and suffering
prolonged symptoms, including loss of taste, extreme confusion and memory loss.
Aarti says: “Some days you feel as though you will be okay, but then there’s days where walking a few steps is painful and I’m out of breath again because suddenly my body is weak again.”
She adds: “I’m not back to work properly. I had to reduce my working hours and days because I am struggling.
“Speech distortion was another embarrassing symptom. I struggled with speech and memory. I forgot common words, I slurred and stuttered.”
Despite all this, Aarti describes herself as one of the “lucky ones”. She has been able to get
both doses of her Covid vaccine, something others never got the chance to.
This tragic reality is something Sanjiv Patel knows all too well. The 54-year-old lost his father to the virus after they both were admitted to hospital and placed
in the intensive care unit.
Four months after being discharged from hospital, Sanjiv was diagnosed with Long Covid. At the time he could barely manage two to three hours of work without feeling exhausted.
He’s now vaccinated and uses his experience to encourage others to do the same.
“Even if you are not concerned about your own safety, not taking safety precautions could mean that you pass on the virus to someone who is vulnerable,” Sanjiv says. “Get vaccinated as soon as you can and stay safe and follow the guidelines.”
Getting vaccinated against Covid is the best way to protect yourself and others from Covid-19 and Long Covid.
To book your Covid vaccination appointment, visit nhs.uk/CovidVaccine or call 119 free of
Contact your GP if you’re worried about symptoms 4 weeks or more after having Covid-19.