Today is an anniversary that George Hencken never imagined. It is exactly one year since she caught COVID-19. But unlike most people who have suffered from the disease, she remains ill.
“It’s a year since I’ve felt like myself,” she said. “It’s a year since my life as I knew it came to an end. And I don’t know if I’m going to get it back again.”
Long Covid doesn’t quite describe the depths of her fatigue. “It’s not tiredness. It’s like having jet lag and a hangover. It feels like I’ve been poisoned,” she said.
The problem for Hencken and the thousands still suffering from the virus months later is that long Covid doesn’t describe much at all.
The umbrella term covers people who are breathless and fatigued, or who have brain fog, headaches and tingling arms, or who have chest pains and heart palpitations, or all of those and dozens more symptoms besides.
Support groups such as LongCovidSOS have been fighting hard for the condition to be recognised and taken seriously – sufferers say they feel disbelieved, and doctors initially had little information, support or even funding.
Last week the government announced £18.5m through the National Institute for Health Research to fund four major studies attempting to understand exactly what long Covid means, why it affects so many apparently healthy people, and how they can be helped. Research by University College London will track the health of 60,000 people, including people with long Covid and a control group who will wear a Fitbit-style wristband to measure heart rate, breathing and exercise levels.
The aim is to chart and identify clusters of symptoms, Professor Nishi Chaturvedi said. “My sense is that the multiplicity of symptoms that people are reporting suggests to me and many others that it’s not one thing, but several syndromes. We’re not even at the starting point yet of knowing what it is,” she said.
Source: The Guardian, 20 February 2021