In March 2020 Adele became unwell. Initially she had ‘textbook’ symptoms of Covid – a sore throat, temperature, cough and headache. After a week she became very unwell. After experiencing a wide range of symptoms, more recently she has been able to return to her work part-time. Being able to share experiences and treatment ideas with others has helped her recovery. She regrets pushing herself too soon and too much, both physically and mentally. Adele was interviewed in May 2021.

Adele is a doctor. Before Covid, she had a busy social life, worked full-time and had lots of hobbies. ‘All of that, pretty much, went in the bin’ when she contracted Covid. Her partner has been very supportive throughout her illness.

She initially had ‘textbook’ Covid symptoms in March 2020 – sore throat, fever, cough and shortness of breath. She then developed many more symptoms which got worse over time. These included brain fog, visual disturbances, dizziness, severe postural headaches, tinnitus, fast heart rate (tachycardia), intense chest and stomach pain, nerve pain, numbness or tingling in her hands and feet, inflamed and painful joints, wheeziness, skin rashes and phantom smells. She had ‘waves’ of feeling worse and some secondary infections, such a pneumonia. Some symptoms (like chest pain) got worse when she tried to exercise, and some returned or only started about 9 months after the initial infection. Some symptoms have got worse in some circumstances, particularly lightheadedness, fainting and cognitive problems. After more than a year she feels fortunate that she is beginning to get better, although she still has some cognitive and neurological symptoms and fatigue.

After 6 months off work, she made an unsuccessful attempt to return which made her feel ‘like a failure’. With so many symptoms and the worry of not being able to work, she felt depressed for a few weeks. This passed quite quickly with support from her partner and colleagues and some medical treatment. In hindsight she feels it was a mistake to try to push herself mentally and physically. She has partially returned to work. Sometimes she still finds the mental demands of the job very tiring.

Getting to know others with long Covid was very helpful. She joined a group of doctors with long Covid, which helped her to make sense of her symptoms. They still give each other mutual support. She also thinks there has been some stigma around long Covid, and too often people focus on psychological elements of long Covid. The group of doctors was useful for exploring treatment options. Some treatments and therapies have helped – for example, beta blockers helped with her tachycardia and antihistamines helped with various allergies and rashes. She found that a meditation app, gentle yoga and balancing periods of rest and activity helped to ease some symptoms. Changing what she ate helped with a gluten intolerance that she developed. She has had support from a very good GP, but she thinks health care professionals have struggled to know what to do because long Covid is a new condition.

Her advice for someone who encounters anyone who may have long Covid is to ‘be compassionate and understanding, believe what they say, it might sound preposterous, and wild, and unbelievable, but it’s very, very real, it’s happening… and it’s really scary, and difficult.’ Her advice to people with long Covid is ‘rest, rest, rest, don’t push yourself and talk to people about how you feel.’