Long Covid is absolutely debilitating – it’s important suffers are not forgotten
The exhaustion was something else, to the point where just doing simple tasks around the house brought me out in a massive sweat, writes Andrew Gwynne MP. | PA Images
The rise in Covid cases will convert into a huge increase in Long Covid cases over the coming months. It's vital that government understands Long Covid and the support needed for sufferers.
I am hoping that, as you read this now, you have heard of Long Covid. Over the past few months, awareness of this condition has thankfully grown, but this was certainly not the case when I first started suffering from it.
Like thousands of others, I caught Coronavirus back at the start of the first wave in early March. This was before the first lockdown and Parliament was apparently a hotbed of the virus. It was a very unpleasant experience, starting off with extreme fatigue which developed a week later into classic Covid symptoms. As thoroughly grotty as the experience was, I did not need at any point to go to a hospital. Instead, I self-isolated in a room of my house for a couple of weeks until it blew over.
Unfortunately for me, even as I recovered from the virus itself and was able to emerge from my cocoon, some of the symptoms were still with me. The exhaustion was something else, to the point where just doing simple tasks around the house brought me out in a massive sweat of the type you’d get from running a marathon. There were dizzy spells and vertigo. Perhaps most worrying for me, given my job, was the brain fog – my short-term memory was shot to pieces. In short, Long Covid is absolutely debilitating.
The condition is still not widely-understood and some “long termers” have been unable to continue in their jobs
After a few weeks, I found that I was not alone. A surprisingly high proportion of people who recover from Covid-19 are “long termers”. I joined some fantastic online support groups and found people all over the country suffering similarly.
While I am very lucky that I was able to continue to work, through virtual participation in the Commons and with the support of my staff, others have not been so lucky. The condition is still not widely-understood and some “long termers” have been unable to continue in their jobs.
I was delighted, therefore, to join Layla Moran and Dr Dan Poulter in co-sponsoring this week’s important debate. As is normal with these things, this debate has been in the pipeline for some time, but arguably there’s never been a more important time to have it than now.
Cases are spiking again and, of course, our focus should be on bringing down infections and stopping our NHS from being overwhelmed. However, this huge increase in Covid cases will also convert into a huge increase in Long Covid cases over the coming months.
This is a really big challenge. Whilst my energy levels have gradually returned to something like normal over the last couple of months or so, I still experience the brain fog from time-to-time. The House of Commons Digital Engagement Team have been working with support groups to collect experiences of my fellow “long termers” ahead of Thursday’s debate and they have been inundated with responses from people who are still feeling the effects of Long Covid months on.
This is why this debate is so important. We need to find out more from government about the work that they are doing to understand Long Covid and the clinical support they can provide for sufferers (which for some has been woeful). But we also need to raise awareness and discuss what can be done beyond the medical sphere to ensure that employers and others understand the condition and are able to support any staff with Long Covid.
Just as importantly, we need to represent the voices of the thousands and thousands of “long termers” across the UK, to let them know that they are not alone or forgotten, and to press for government action on their behalf.
Andrew Gwynne is the Labour MP for Denton and Reddish.