Long Covid“It’s like I’ve lost 20 years of my life, Joe.”

As heard on liveline

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Long Covid is a phrase most of us have heard, but for many of us, it may not be really clear what it means. Patricia and Linda spoke to Joe on Tuesday’s Livelineare both well aware of what long Covid is and their stories of what the condition has done – and continues to do – to them are chilling. The differences in the treatments they’ve had are also quite marked: Patricia lives in France and Linda lives in Ireland. 

Patricia was hit hard by Covid last March and at the time, the medical world was struggling to understand the new virus and its effects and people were piling into the hospitals. This meant that Patricia couldn’t get into her local hospital at the time of her diagnosis because it was full, even though they considered her Covid symptoms quite serious. That assessment has since been updated: 

“I’m now considered as severe because of all the damage and everything that I’ve come out with.” 

The list of symptoms that Patricia’s had to endure since contracting Covid is frightening: she’s had breathing difficulties, chest pains, pneumonia, pericarditis and she was bed-ridden for two months. Tests also revealed that Patricia’s thyroid was swollen and her pancreas was inflamed and she was in danger of a pulmonary embolism. 

“From there on in it was like every part of my body. The inflammation just went from head to toe.” 

Patricia’s breathing continued to be haphazard: some days it would be ok and other days, she’d have real difficulties. No one seemed to be able to tell her what was wrong with her. Patricia had to insist on having a pulmonary scintigraphy, which is a diagnostic test that measures the blood and air supply to the lungs.  

“And it’s there that they detected that I had a problem in the ventilation part of my lungs.” 

Patricia was told she’d lost 34% of her lung capacity. A major part of her treatment has been physiotherapy, something that doesn’t seem to figure in Ireland’s approach to Covid patients.  

“Since July, I go for physiotherapy four times a week... My respiratory specialist prescribed me that and she said that this is even more important than the inhaler and the blood thinners and everything. 

The treatments Patricia’s been receiving are all covered by France’s social insurance. Contrast this with Linda, who’s suffered many of the same symptoms, but has had to pay for all her doctor’s appointments and scans herself. Linda got Covid in October last year. 

I was just very tired for the two weeks that they say you’re meant to get Covid, but by God, I’m now on 121 days since I got Covid, Joe and I am not getting better.” 

Linda told Joe that she has problems getting dressed in the morning, she can’t hold a hairdryer because her hand shakes, she can’t have a conversation without her inhaler. Before October, she never had any respiratory issues.  

“It’s like I’ve lost 20 years of my life, Joe and I’m not happy with it because I’ve no support. There’s no phoneline I can ring, there’s no physiotherapy for me, there’s no doctors, there’s absolutely nothing. I’ve been handed a set of painkillers and told, ‘Just rest.’” 

To hear Patricia and Linda’s stories in full – as well as other callers’ experiences – go here to listen to the full discussion. 

Niall Ó Sioradáin 

© The Listener 2021

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