'flattened me' | 

Mum speaks of Long Covid hell and being forced to suffer in silence with fatigue

Fit and healthy mum of two now plagued with pain and nausea
Rebecca Logan

Rebecca Logan

By Richard Sullivan

Rebecca Logan is the face of a forgotten pandemic.

She is one of the hundreds of people across Northern Ireland cast aside by a Health Service preoccupied by the waves of Covid infections sweeping the country.

She and others have been forced to suffer in silence but she is determined to be heard.

Rebecca's life has been laid waste by the ravages of long Covid, reduced to a mere shadow of her former self.

Besieged by chronic fatigue, dizziness, nausea, joint pain, vision impairment and loss of hearing, this once super-fit mother of two and nurse is virtually housebound.

When she manages to go out she relies on a wheelchair - walking the dog with her husband and two children is a distant memory.

She tries to fight back but it's an impossible task. Her current ambition is to be able to walk unbroken and unaided for one minute every other day.

"I tried to up it to two minutes, but it flattened me, I couldn't do it," she told the Sunday World.

This is a woman who, pre-pandemic, held down two jobs, one of which was a fitness instructor. She ran marathons and could not have been fitter or more motivated.

But she is an angry woman.

Shunned by the Health Service and the political establishment, she believes that long Covid is taboo that nobody wants to talk about.

"We feel we are being ignored - it's as if long Covid has gone, but it hasn't and people are suffering alone with no hope and no help," she said.

The condition was recognised last year by the World Health Organisation and it is estimated a staggering 100 million people are suffering from it across the world.

But here there is not even a record of how many are affected.

And sufferers have to live with the scepticism and cynicism of others who simply don't believe there is such a thing as long Covid, even friends are doubtful, and in many cases family doctors are dismissive and don't want to refer patients.

Rebecca has had to change GP.

"I was told I was and anxious and depressed. We are told to get on with it as if we are making it up. I'm talking about young people who have never been sick. Why would I not bother to go out and get in a wheelchair? People are so dismissive."

The 40-year-old from Dundonald has become an advocate for long Covid sufferers, she writes a blog and is in contact with people across the North. With them also it's a story of loneliness and abandonment.

"In one way I'm so lucky, I have the support of my husband, the girls and my family. A man rang me, he was on his own and I was the first person he had spoken to who also had long Covid.

"I spoke to a woman who was in tears, she was self-employed but couldn't work and with no support she was about to lose her house."

Rebecca was a nurse working with Covid patients when she contracted the virus. That was in April 2020, 21 months ago.

She suffered the now familiar symptoms of aching joints, fatigue dizziness, and a loss of smell and taste.

After a fortnight she went to AE with breathing difficulties but wasn't admitted. Over the following months she slowly improved and she dared to hope there was light at the end of the tunnel and, despite the headaches and brain fog, she went back to the gym.

But by November that year she started to lose her balance. Visits to a neurologist and cardiologist followed and she was advised to simply rest, which is all she could do.

Getting out of a bed in the morning is a struggle, walking from the kitchen to the living room is an achievement.

"My husband leaves my breakfast out for me. I sit on the sofa, I might be able to put a wash on but then I have to rest. Even talking to you leaves me exhausted I'll have to lie down and rest.

"It's a desolate place to be, devastatingly lonely. I held down two jobs, I was on the go seven days a week, I was the life and soul of the party always the last to leave now even getting out bed flattens me.

"People say to me 'I'm get tired too' - this is not tiredness it is completely different, it is a crippling fatigue."

And then there's the keyboard warriors. One social media post told her she was suffering from "lazy bastarditis".

She battles on.

"I try to get out at least twice a week, when I do I put on a bit of make-up. I was in the supermarket recently and someone came up to me and said 'you look fantastic!' Fantastic? What the hell am I suppose to say to that sitting in my wheelchair?"

She manages the five-minute drive to pick one of her daughters from the school bus and tries to be on her feet for them coming.

"They are angry and upset seeing their once super-fit mum barely able to move, so I don't want them coming home to see me lying on the sofa."

Primary school principle husband Chris has had to step up, she says.

"The woman is normally the boss of the house! Now he comes home and has to cook the evening meal because I can't stand up long enough to cook and do the things I used to do. I feel so guilty about that."

If there is anything positive in all this she says, it's that she has found her voice

"We know there is no cure we're not asking for a cure but there is nothing, nothing in Northern Ireland, nobody is even talking about long Covid."

There are promising signs from a research being carried out in South Africa and in Germany. In January last year the University of Ulster announced Covres, a research programme, but after one initial meeting Rebecca has heard nothing.

Health Minister Robin Swann announced a £1 million support package in November including long Covid clinics, but at least one health trust has not yet put any services in place and so far only a limited number have been referred largely because of GP scepticism.

Requests to meet Mr Swann and Chief Medical Office Sir Michael McBride were turned down, letters to MLA written by husband Chris went unanswered. Only Alliance chief Naomi Long engaged with them along with fellow MLAs Chris Lyttle and Paula Bradshaw.

The only organisational support is a programme run by the Chest Heart and Stroke Association which she found helpful and gave her the impetus to speak out on behalf of fellow sufferers.

"I'm trying to get my head around the fact this is my life now, you know, if it wasn't for Chris and the girls I'm not sure I could go on living like this."

richard.sullivan@sundayworld.com


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