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Coronavirus: The year that everything changed

2020 was the year that transformed life beyond recognition. Covid-19 struck and we found ourselves in a global pandemic. Sadly, many lost their fight with the virus, and even those lucky enough to overcome it, still have effects to deal with, often longterm. Sarah Marshall takes a look at some of the ongoing symptoms people face when recovering from Covid-19.

Trying to stay safe and avoiding catching Coronavirus have been our number one priorities for nearly a year now. But what about if you’ve had the virus, thought you were getting over it but despite your best efforts you’re still feeling the effects?

For recovering from Coronavirus isn’t quite as simple as you’d think. Anyone who has experienced it or had a close family member or friend who has then you’ll know the symptoms don’t disappear as soon as the worst is over. Indeed many people report still feeling below par weeks and even months afterwards.

Amy Clarke, 32, from Bucknall, who was struck down with the virus in November, says: “I still feel tired and my chest isn’t quite right. I really notice it when I walk up and down the stairs.

“It’s probably only in the last few weeks that I’ve actually felt more myself but I know I’m not completely 100 per cent.”

It can also affect mental health too, especially for those who have had to spend a long period in isolation or even in hospital. And for those who have been lucky enough to avoid it so far you might be feeling scared or anxious, wondering how you or a loved one will cope if it should happen to you and how long it will take to get over it.

But there is support available and the most important thing is not to panic.
Time – An NHS spokesman says how long it takes to recover is different for everybody. “Many people feel better in a few days or weeks and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks. But for some people symptoms can last longer.”

Amy, who works as an office manager for Project Storm Media in Trentham, began to feel unwell towards the end of November but had no inkling that it could be Covid-19.

“I remember feeling really tired on the Sunday and having a headache but I’d had a long, busy weekend and put it down to that,” she says. “I didn’t think anything more of it to be honest. But on the Wednesday morning I woke up and my throat felt like swallowing glass, hurting and swollen. It was really painful.”

She said the symptoms came on fairly suddenly and because of the severity she began to wonder if coronavirus was a possibility and thought it best to book a test.She managed to get to a drive-in test site later that day and the following evening received an email to say it was positive.

“By that time I was feeling awful,” she explains. “I barely left my bed for the next four or five days. I lost my appetite completely which is not like me as even when I’ve been ill before with a stomach bug I’ve always managed to eat something because it helps a bit. With this I couldn’t face anything.
“My head was constantly aching, it felt like all my bones were aching and I was constantly tired no matter how much sleep I had.”

For patients who are able to treat themselves at home, there is no real medication to take except the usual painkillers and remedies, as well as drinking plenty of fluids and having lots of rest.

Amy herself relied on paracetamol and cold and flu remedies. But being at home caused major fears. “My big concern was for my mum as she has terminal cancer and I was frightened of passing it on to her,” she explains. “I live with my parents so I had to isolate myself from them and stay in my room. Whenever I used the bathroom I cleaned everything that I’d touched.

“Isolation was hard, it really got me down. When you’re feeling low you want friends and family around but I had to stay on my own in my room. Even when I started to feel a little bit better I couldn’t go out for some fresh air as I’d got to stay isolated.”

Recovery – Many of the ongoing symptoms of Covid can include breathlessness, fatigue, a cough, loss of taste and smell, voice and swallowing issues and muscular and joint pain. Mental health problems can include fear and anxiety, mood swings and issues with memory and concentration. The good news is there’s plenty of advice on offer from the NHS about how to manage symptoms.

First and foremost experts recommend taking things slowly and not rushing your recovery. If you get breathless pace yourself rather than trying to go at your usual speed.

Breathing problems can also affect swallowing ability or cause coughing so again, slow down and take small bites. So too, if you’ve been in hospital and possibly had a breathing tube, as this can cause bruising and swelling to the throat. The advice is to ensure you sit upright while eating and drinking, take small mouthfuls and avoid talking while eating and drinking.

Fatigue can take months to overcome, with many things contributing to it, such as poor sleep, a disturbed routine, not being as active as usual and anxiety and stress. Try to plan each day in advance and don’t do too much on the days you feel good as this is only likely to leave you exhausted the following day. Try relaxation techniques to help with sleep and overcoming stress, reading, a long shower or bath or relaxing activities such as yoga or meditation. Eat fairly healthily and get help with any tasks if you can.

Changes in taste and smell can vary but some people experience food tasting metallic or bland, salty or sweet, or their sense of smell disappearing. Keeping your mouth clean and healthy by brushing teeth regularly and rinsing with water can help.

Those left with anxiety or low mood, are advised to try and speak to friends or family via phone or video call to stay connected and share how they’re feeling. They should also try to eat well, keep to a routine and get outside for some exercise.

But if people do need immediate help they should seek help. The Samaritans can be contacted on 116123. People can also text SHOUT to 85258.
For Amy, both her parents also contracted Covid, but thankfully they recovered well. But she says her own recovery has taken longer than she thought.

“The tiredness affected me for weeks afterwards,” she says. “I am still not sleeping well even now and my sense of smell is still very hit and miss. It’s weird how it comes and goes.

“My chest isn’t quite right but the one thing it has helped with is cutting down on smoking. I don’t want to smoke as much anymore.

“It’s a horrible virus but I would say if you do get it don’t panic. It’s not necessarily a death sentence. I was so worried when I tested positive and my parents were too. You do go to a dark place but if you can be positive as much as possible you will get better.”

Staying safe – For relatives and friends seeing their loved ones go through the illness and recovering afterwards can be just as difficult as having it yourself. Knowing the best way to offer support is no easy task.

An NHS spokesman says: “You may find that for a while, they may need more understanding and support from you than usual. You may need to find a balance between supporting them, and also encouraging them to become fully independent again as soon as possible. This can be a demanding time for you.

“Some people find it difficult to accept that they survived Covid, especially those who have been in hospital, and are now able to begin their recovery.

“Relatives and friends can experience as much, and sometimes even more, stress than the patients themselves in serious illnesses like Covid. You may have feared the worst, felt helpless, tired, anxious or upset. This can continue for you during their recovery too.”

Amy says her experiences have given her a different outlook on the whole pandemic.

“I was always sceptical of the virus,” she admits. “I didn’t always follow the guidelines to the letter. I could be quite flippant about it.

“Getting it made me realise what could have happened not only to me but that I could have passed it to my mum. It wasn’t necessarily about me being ill, it was someone more vulnerable being at risk. I realised I should take it more seriously.

“I am much more careful now. I don’t go anywhere unless I have to and I’m always washing my hands and cleaning.

“I think there are people who think ‘it won’t happen to me’. The Government gave us a bit of freedom after the last lockdown and having it taken away in another lockdown is hard, but I would urge everyone to follow the safety guidelines, take precautions and look after themselves.”

For advice on Covid 19 and coping with recovery visit

                                                                                                                 yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk

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