Months after coming down with the virus, Eleanor Morgan is still struggling with ‘long Covid’. What is it and how can the burden be eased?
One night in early March, I had a fever that reminded me of being a child. My pyjama top stuck to me with sweat, my joints ached and, at some point, the walls looked like they were breathing. The next morning I started coughing and didn’t stop. It was pre-lockdown and, taking pity on me (I live alone in London), a friend in the countryside offered to be nurse. En route, in Paddington Station, I longed to curl up like a cat beside the warmth of the Upper Crust stall. One morning, my friend told me she’d poked her head round the door throughout the night to check I hadn’t coughed my aorta up into the bed.
Back in London, as lockdown began, unpredictable spells of fatigue started to hit me. Was it Covid? I had no idea; only NHS staff were being tested then. But it didn’t feel like chest infections I’d known. There was a crushing feeling in my chest for weeks, as if my ribs were a pair of bellows being squeezed. Adding to the fun, I’m asthmatic. On two occasions, things felt hairy and I called 111. Each time I was summoned to A&E and given a nebuliser and steroids, which helped dramatically. But March became April, became May and the fatigue remained. Some days, it felt like a possession. I’d walk the dog in the morning then fall asleep on the sofa until 3pm. Eight months on, I still have mild, irregular breathlessness and chest tightness. I have been upgraded to a steroid inhaler that, generously, keeps giving me oral thrush. My GP thinks I may have long Covid.