'I cried when I could finally take a short walk': Living with Long Covid

Video report by ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan

A study by King's College London found an estimated 10% of people with coronavirus take at least three weeks to recover, with 250,000 people in the UK alone thought to experience symptoms for 30 days or more.

The long tail effects of coronavirus have become known as Long Covid while sufferers are self-styled as 'long haulers'.

The effects of Long Covid are far reaching - with a vast array of symptoms encompassing both physical and neurological - that drag into weeks and often months. 

Many sufferers were formally active, fit people with no underlying health conditions.

Long Covid sufferer Kay Whitehead and primary healthcare specialist Professor Trish Greenhalgh talk to ITV News about the condition

Long hauler Catherine Skinner told ITV News about living with the long term effects of Covid-19.

"I went down with Covid on 10 March.

"After the standard week of grim coughing and night sweats, I thought that was it.

"It wasn’t. I started to get frightening bouts of breathlessness, that got worse and closer together.

"After a couple of weeks, this was joined by crushing pain in my chest, back, shoulders, neck, jaw and arms, with massive tachycardia and swimming vision. I was taken to A&E."I was lucky. I was able to keep my oxygen levels up and was sent home to manage my Covid alone.

"But it wasn’t manageable. Doctors now know that Covid doesn’t just attack the lungs, it affects the heart, nervous system, brain and other organs too.

"It can also cause blood clots and strokes. For almost three months I had to deal with the 'heart attack' symptoms and breathing problems at home.

"They would come in waves that got closer together and more intense for a few weeks until I was having them every half hour, day and night.

"I’d wake up all through the night with difficulty breathing, crushing chest pain, utterly exhausted, despairing of how I’d make it through to morning. I felt unsafe being at home.

"Then I’d feel a bit better for a day or two, only for the whole cycle to start again."There were other unpleasant symptoms too: brain fog (I couldn’t concentrate enough to read or watch TV), abdominal pain, diarrhoea, a throat that felt like I’d inhaled caustic chemicals, pins and needles in my hands and feet, dehydration, low blood pressure, plunging body temperature, hives, face swelling up at night.

"And the sadness that I was too ill to look after my eight-year-old daughter, who lived separately with her dad for three months."After four months, I’m still ill, but the symptoms are far milder and I finally feel like I’m on the road to recovery. I’m not an emotional person, but I cried when I was finally able to take a short, wobbly walk in the park with my daughter. Small, normal things had felt so far away for so long."Most of us with Long Covid have been too sick to tell our stories until now.

"But I hope that as we start to share them, the public will learn the true risks of this horrific disease.

"I also hope hospitals will set up specialist Covid clinics to ensure future patients with non-lung Covid issues can get the tests and treatment they need instead of ending up in A&E multiple times."