Heather caught Covid early in the pandemic, and had a very slow recovery with ongoing symptoms. She felt that health professionals were dismissive of her symptoms. Heather was interviewed in December 2021.

Heather and her husband caught Covid in March 2020 the week before schools shut and there was a national lockdown. She felt extremely ill for three weeks, but her husband had much milder symptoms and could go back to farming for a few hours after a week. Family and friends helped with groceries and her children fended for themselves. Towards the end of the three weeks Heather called the paramedics twice and went to A & E after the second paramedic visit feeling like “this could be me on the way out,” but she was discharge from A & E that day. She did start to recover after that, but her progress was very slow. By the summer of 2020 she felt ‘OK’ and went back to work at school in September. Heather normally teaches for two days a week, but she was finding it very difficult to concentrate and every week she was struggling more with her work. In October she started to experience palpitations and irregular heart rhythms and had to stop work but hadn’t connected these symptoms to having had Covid.

Heather found her cardiac symptoms very worrying, and her GP sent her to hospital for tests, but these came back negative. “It was very scary because I thought I had a heart condition and that that’s what was wrong with me, and whenever they kept saying, “Your tests are clear,” even though I was glad they were clear, part of me was going, but why… then what’s wrong, you know, if everything’s clear, what… why do I feel like this?” Her employers were not very helpful and were pushing for answers about what was wrong and when she was coming back to work, but she wasn’t able to give them any answers.

Heather thinks that the health professionals that she saw at the time “looked upon me as, kind of, premenopausal, slightly hysterical woman is the way I felt they were talking to me, but then I began to think, maybe that’s what I am [laughs].” She had to go back to the GP for a sick note every two weeks but was offered no help or advice. She asked one GP in November whether her symptoms might be Long Covid, but this was dismissed “They were very dismissive of Long Covid at that stage because they didn’t know much about it”. Her school principal was getting agitated, and she felt they thought that she was “taking time out when I shouldn’t be”. Occupational health had been calling and pushing for a return date and she though she may be able to go back in January 2021. That gave her six weeks to recover further, and she felt some relief that she was out of the two-week cycle of sick notes.

Though in January 2021 she developed more symptoms, and she was very worried about what was causing them “I was so embarrassed phoning the doctor because I felt like they would have a big, red sign going, hypochondriac lady, watch out for this lady, here she is again. But constant symptoms.” Heather was sent for an MRI due to the hissing symptom she was experiencing in her head, but this too came back clear. Abdominal pains followed and the investigations that followed also came back clear.

Since her interview, Heather is now back at work for two days a week, and is (almost) managing all she needs to do. She still suffers from aching muscles and fatigue and finds it more difficult to get over infections. She still has occasional stinging sensations in her legs, intermittent buzzing in her head, bouts of bowel trouble, and increased anxiety levels. She is not attending any clinics, and other than taking a vitamin supplement, she is not on any medication. She did get seen by a Long Covid clinic earlier this year; they gave her some leaflets on managing fatigue.

She is “not quite the person I was before contracting Covid, but I feel fairly optimistic that I will still improve. Sometimes I worry that I am too accepting/grateful for what I now feel like – so I think I still need to aim to get even better!” She feels she has come out the other end of her ‘Long Covid Tunnel’, is thankful to be ‘out’ and hopeful for the future. She feels that her family suffered because of her illness, as she hasn’t been able to be ‘there’ for them as a mum normally would, but thinks they probably do not really realise this – children are very adaptable.

She summarises: “Other than being slighty anxious about how I will fare when I get Covid again, I feel positive about what comes next.”

Heather’s children ‘rose to the occasion’ while she was most unwell. She’s not sure how they felt emotionally.

Age at interview 48

As a teacher, Heather found it difficult to explain to her employer when she would be able to return to work when she didn’t understand what was wrong herself.

Age at interview 48