In March 2021 Sophie developed severe breathing problems and she now feels that she is beginning to recovery. She feels her GPs haven’t taken her symptoms seriously. She worries about whether her body has been permanently damaged by Covid and whether striving to regain her fitness may have made things worse. Sophie was interviewed in June 2021.

Sophie is a full-time student and lives with her husband and two young children. She describes herself as very active, ‘high energy’ and a keen hill walker and runner before she became ill.

In March 2021 she developed discolouration and a burning sensation on her tongue. She felt more sluggish than usual. When she developed ‘heavy’ tiredness, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath and an overpowering metallic taste in her mouth. Two weeks later she began to wonder whether she might have Covid. After a negative PCR test, her doctor said she thought she might have had Covid sometime earlier. Over the three weeks that followed, Sophie became severely ill with muscle spasms (‘tightenings’ which started over her chest and then moved around her body), a racing heart and difficulty breathing. Her blood pressure went ‘sky high’. She was struggling to walk and needed to stay in bed. She said ‘I thought I was going to die… I’d wake up at night gasping (for air)’. She was ‘completely wiped out’.

Over the subsequent months her symptoms went ‘backwards and forwards’ and she thought she would never get better, but things gradually improved and she now feels she’s over the worst. Her husband and parents have been an important source of support. They have helped with looking after her young children.

Sophie contacted her GP about 2 weeks after her first symptoms. She described feeling shrugged off and confused. She said her doctor ‘thought maybe it was psychological, the shortness of breath and stuff.’ During her illness Sophie arranged appointments with a number of GPs at her local practice, mainly by telephone. She had various blood tests, but these didn’t show anything. She didn’t know what to do when she was feeling really bad and she wished the doctors had suggested following her up rather than leaving her on her own. She worries that the illness may have ‘damaged her in some way’. Now that Sophie is getting a bit more active again, she wishes she could have a ‘body check’ to confirm that she is OK. She now feels like she doesn’t even want to contact the doctors about her ongoing symptoms because she doesn’t want to be shrugged off again. She has considered having further tests done privately but doesn’t think this is affordable on their single wage.

Sophie has found it difficult to find any clear answers, reliable information and treatments for her condition. She briefly joined a Long Covid online group, but she said ‘to be honest it made me feel more anxious’.  She found information on some online sites and forums ‘really quite scary’. She has tried taking multi-vitamins and glucose tablets. She has also taken aspirin and Propranolol which has helped to take her heart rate down. Since her interview, Sophie has started to take cetirizine hydrochloride antihistamines in the evening. She said these have helped her tremendously because they relieve the crushing chest pain and shortness of breath symptoms.

Sophie now feels that she is definitely beginning to get better. Throughout her journey she has never tested positive for Covid and while she’d like to have Long Covid formerly diagnosed, her main concerns are unknowns regarding any lasting damage, and whether pushing herself physically could make things worse.

She thinks it’s important for GPs to encourage people to get back in touch if they continue to feel unwell and to arrange follow-up appointments. She feels like her own GPs did not understand how bad she felt and how much she has struggled with her symptoms.