Chelmsford healthcare worker speaks of long-COVID battle

A 60-year-old health care worker says she is worried what her future holds if she is unable to return to work – after still struggling with the consequences of COVID-19 more than a year after contracting the virus in hospital.

Marion Harvey, who says she contracted coronavirus while working at Broomfield Hospital, is still unable to stay on her feet for more than three hours without becoming overcome with fatigue.

Mrs Harvey, who lives in Chelmsford, is among hundreds of so-called ‘long-haulers’ who have been battling extreme fatigue and brain fog despite contracting coronavirus over a year ago.

One in 10 people who are infected with COVID-19 are estimated to go on to develop some form of long-term effects, with symptoms including breathlessness, anxiety and chronic fatigue.

But Mrs Harvey says one of her biggest concerns is how she and husband Garry will cope financially if she cannot return to work.

“If I can’t go back to work and can’t do the job I had done, where does that leave me?” she said.

“On the balance of probability, I caught it at work but they are not going to pay me indefinitely.

“If you have COVID or long-term COVID on your certificate you’ll get paid, but they are going to have to stop that at some point. If I can’t go to work it will have an impact on us financially.

“It is serious. It is a bit forgotten about. It is almost as if they need to parade us around to prove the condition is true.”

Mrs Harvey tested positive in April for COVID-19. While she did not suffer very serious symptoms that required hospital treatment, she did have a serious bout of fatigue and muscle ache.

“I didn’t die from it and I wasn’t hospitalised,” continued Mrs Harvey.

“I thought I got off lightly but I didn’t think a year down the line I would have days where I feel like I do.

“But I feel like my GP tolerates me. I don’t feel I have had the proper support. One doctor told me to push through it.”

Currently, there is no treatment for long COVID but a clinic set up within four weeks in December is now assessing patients’ symptoms and signposting them to support such as speech and language, physiotherapy or psychological help.

The specialist clinics bring together doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists to offer physical and psychological assessments and refer patients to the right treatment and rehabilitation services.

Mrs Harvey continued: “I used to work shifts covering 30 hours a week. There is no way I could do that now. Even talking takes its toll.

“All the while I’m thinking what is tomorrow going to bring.”

She continued: “Some people have trouble with their eyesight and others have trouble with their blood pressure or their pulse or they get gastric problems.

“For me it’s the joint pain and it is random – it could be on the top of my right foot and then it almost jumps to the side of my left hand. And there is no rhyme or reason.”

Mrs Harvey was recently out shopping in Chelmsford and on her return had taken her two dogs out for a short walk.

She explained: “I was probably on my feet for three hours but not rushing around and I started to feel unwell. The next day I felt unwell all day.

“It seems like I suffer the day after. I’m not expecting my body to do great things – just to do normal things.”

According to the NHS website, coronavirus can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone.

How long it takes to recover from COVID-19 is different for everybody, it says.

While some may feel better in a few days or weeks – with most making a full recovery within 12 weeks – for some people, symptoms can last longer.

It advises that anyone worried about symptoms four weeks or more after having COVID-19 to contact your GP surgery.

For more information visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/long-term-effects-of-coronavirus-long-covid/

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter

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