Hannah Collins describes what it feels like living with Long Covid.
A 15-year-old girl from Kent left in constant pain and with crippling fatigue from Long Covid has told ITV Meridian she doesn't feel like she's in her own body anymore.
Hannah Collins was a 13-year-old girl living life to the full when she contracted Covid in 2020.
Three years on, Hannah is still suffering from the devastating effects of the virus and has missed more than a year of school - still unable to return.
She lives with excessive tiredness, headaches and a sore throat on a daily basis - she also suffers from achy legs that are extremely sensitive to touch.
Hannah's health decline began with her experiencing pins and needles all over her body before she lost the use of her legs.
She was rushed to hospital, but doctors had no idea why her legs had been so badly impacted.
The teenager has been speaking as part of a special ITV Meridian investigation into how children are living with Long Covid.
Reflecting on when she became unwell, Hannah said: "It was like my world just came crashing down.
"There were no answers for anything, I'd just been thrown into this and didn't know what to do.
"It's just like nothing you would ever think - I had absolutely no idea until it was actually happening.
"Even just climbing the stairs, or going to the kitchen to get a drink, I think 'can I really be bothered?'
"Everyday tasks which I never even used to think about, it's now just a hassle. It takes so much more energy than some things are worth.
"It makes me so nervous at school because people don't know that, because if they look at you walking down the hall you look perfectly fine."
Hannah enjoyed an active life before she contracted Covid
Hannah was an active teenager before she contracted Covid, enjoying family skiing and summer holidays, as well as taking part in multiple weekly dance classes.
She had no underlying medical conditions when she became unwell.
Hannah's mum Vicky Collins says the illness has been devastating for Hannah, but also for the whole family: "She suffers every day, but she's so brave. So so brave.
"We can't do the things we used to do together, like even go for a walk or just go out for the day."
Hannah's mum Vicky Collins says her illness is like a 'rollercoaster'
With no answers or explanation, Hannah was released from hospital in a wheelchair after just one week.
But her ongoing battle with the virus has meant she has missed over a year of education.
On a good day, Hannah manages to attend one lesson and lunch.
She added: "It almost doesn't feel like my body anymore. It's just not me.
"(The virus) is just a part of me now. I don't want it to be, but it is."
Hannah praises the doctors and nurses who have looked after her but says she needs treatment.
"People are really nice there, they're really kind and warming, but they haven't been able to offer any medicine," she added.
Hannah's family chose to go private - and she is now on medication which she says has helped her enormously.
She said: "It got me back to more how I was before. I'll never be quite the same again, but it got me closer to it."
Hannah wants people to take more care to protect themselves and others.
"Some people spend so long being careful, and then one person is not careful, so then all that time spent being careful can just send you back to hospital," Hannah added.
So far Covid has killed more than 200,000 people in the UK, and there are currently over two million people living with Long Covid.
But, during the height of the pandemic and since, there were repeated reassurances that Covid was not as serious for children.
Yet figures show that last year 20,000 children were hospitalised with Covid 19.
It is estimated that one in 10 people who contract Covid-19 experience long-term health problems - even if they were not initially admitted to hospital for the condition.
Hannah's story is not unusual. According to the charity Long Covid Kids, there are currently 70,000 children living with Long Covid in the UK.
Sammie Mcfarland set up the charity, after her daughter developed the condition in 2020.
She said: "The experiences we're hearing about, time and time again, is that it's difficult to get care.
"It's difficult to get a referral, and it's difficult to be believed, and for those not experiencing it, it's easy to ignore.
"We have a tsunami of disability of varying degrees throughout more than 70,000 children currently in the UK.
"It's a massive problem."
CEO of Long Covid Kids is calling for more to be done to support children living with the condition.
The NHS has committed £90m for long COVID services during the 2022/23 financial year.
An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS has invested £90 million over the last year and will invest an additional £90 million next year to support people affected by Long Covid, including specialist hubs for children and young people.
"Local teams are continuing to work hard to minimise any delays to assessment and treatment.
“Parents who are concerned about their child’s long-lasting symptoms following Covid should contact their GP for further advice and support.”
What are the symptoms of Long Covid?
The most common symptoms of are extreme tiredness (fatigue), feeling short of breath, loss of smell and muscle aches.
But there are lots of symptoms including problems with memory and concentration widely known as 'brain fog.'
Other symptoms include chest pain or tightness, difficulty sleeping, heart palpitations, dizziness, pins and needles, joint pain, depression and anxiety, tinnitus, earaches, feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite, a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste and rashes.
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