Former teacher says long Covid battle has made her lose part of herself

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Former primary school teacher Hayley Clarke has described how her long battle with coronavirus has completely changed her life.

The 27-year-old is still suffering the brutal affects of the virus, 10 months after being diagnosed.

In her own words, Hayley, who is now a MyLondon journalist, describes how the illness is still affecting her life today.

Desribing herself as relatively fit and healthy, Hayley, first put the symptoms down to stress and anxiety.

But the virus soon took hold and has had an impact on her daily life ever since, as reported by MyLondon.



Hayley is still struggling

Hayley’s long battle with Covid-19 – in her own words

I caught coronavirus in March, whilst working as a teacher in a primary school.

Before this, I was a healthy 27-year-old woman, with an unusual amount of hyperactive energy and I went to multiple HIIT and spin classes a week.

I feel like a different person now.

Back when I caught the virus in March, schools were still open, but we were frantically trying to prepare for potential closures.

At first I thought I was just stressed and run down – it’s normal for teachers to work through periods of complete exhaustion and burnout.

Then my fatigue became chest pains, which I initially thought was anxiety because of everything that was going on, but soon became obvious that it wasn’t when paired with my other symptoms.

I was sent home, and spent two weeks by myself, behind scaffolding on the windows that made it feel like a prison cell.

Lots of my friends came to visit at the window with food packages and well-wishes, and waving down to them was a lifeline.




My symptoms were somewhere on the spectrum between mild and severe, and I had most of the ones on the list.

I had (brace yourself): chest pains, shortness of breath, a fever, a dry cough, fatigue, headaches, strange aches and pains in my legs, diarrhoea, brain fog, dizziness and more.

The worst day was the tenth, where my fever was so high I was hallucinating and couldn’t see what was in front of me, and I was struggling to breathe.

Lots of my friends came to visit at the window with food packages and well-wishes, and waving down to them was a lifeline.

My symptoms were somewhere on the spectrum between mild and severe, and I had most of the ones on the list.

I called 111 who told me to stay home unless the breathing problems got so bad I couldn’t speak. I managed to make it to the kitchen for some water by bouncing my hands off the walls of the hallway to support me.

As a child, I had had very mild asthma, which only ever cropped up if I was cross country running and to be honest was something I’d completely forgotten about.

Now, I’m on my third strength steroid inhaler, which I have to take two doses off, twice a day.

It took a long time for my fever to disappear, but by about the third week I’d stopped waking up in the middle of the night, covered in a layer of cold sweat.

Time went on, and most symptoms had subsided. But the chest pains, shortness of breath, fatigue and tiredness continued. As did stranger side effects like extreme thirst, stomach problems and worsened eyesight.

I also frequently forget basic words and the name of things, such as being unable to recall the name for a spatula.

A short walk would completely knock me out. If I went for a half an hour walk, it would end in an hour’s sleep on the sofa when I got home.

By about April/May, us teachers were taking it in turns to teach at key worker school, doing one day a week each.

Being there, in a bubble of ten children was so exhausting I had to teach most of the day sitting down.

When I got home, I needed to shower the germs of the day off before I touched anything, but couldn’t physically manage it. So I laid down on the hard wooden floor instead until I could muster the energy to stand.

Before Covid, I was on my feet with 30 children all day every day, with energy to spare afterwards.

It’s estimated that more than 300,000 people in the UK are suffering from long Covid, according to the BBC and MP Layla Moran in a House of Commons debate yesterday.

I’m in a long Covid Facebook group online, where 33k people share the symptoms they are suffering – many unable to work or get out of bed months and months after catching the disease.

By the six months point, in around September 2020, I was still waking up most nights struggling for breath, and needing puffs of my reliever inhaler to bring my breathing back and calm the coughing fit that often accompanies episodes where I sit up and wheeze, struggling for breath.

It’s really scary.

I had a chest x-ray around this time, which didn’t find any normal signs of lung damage. But so much of the long term effects of Covid remain unknown and I’m no closer to any answers.

For a long time, I was really nervous about going outside for fear of reinfection, and felt a sort of agoraphobia when doing things such as walking around the supermarket, wanting to be next to my partner or mum inside the store at all times, as being alone was too much.

I get the feeling from a lot of people that they don’t really believe me when I describe my symptoms.

Most people are empathetic and seem concerned when I bring it up, but on the whole everyone assumes I’m better now, as I can largely function.

Family and older friends are more concerned, and check in on how I am and make sure I’m listening to my body and resting enough.

But what they don’t see is the coughing fit I have after every meal, the grey face and black rings under my eyes and the fact I need hours more sleep each night to function at half capacity.

Or the asthma attacks after trying to dust my room, or put on some spray deodorant.

Obviously, that’s taken its toll on my mental health too. As someone who was already extremely anxious, during CBT sessions my anxiety levels were severe, and low-mood remains a problem.

It still affects my life every day. I still get tired from walks, have depleted energy and frequent asthma attacks.

I still wake up all throughout every night gasping with thirst, and occasionally still gasping for air.

Things also taste different, which is another strange side effect.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get better, and neither do the doctors and nurses that have tried to help me.

We’re all weaving between the scientific suggestions and uncertainties, learning together how best to navigate these new waters and try to manage my symptoms.

My doctor’s surgery has no access to the long Covid clinics, so I can’t get any help there.

My energy levels remain about 40 per cent of what they were before the pandemic, which makes me feel like I have a different personality and has left me feeling like I’ve lost part of myself.

My lungs still feel completely different to before. It’s a horrible reminder of my mortality.

I’m really lucky to have the support network I have around me – a hugely caring boyfriend, brilliant friends and family, including my mum who now cooks all my dinners and washes my clothes since I moved home.

I wouldn’t have been able to manage retraining as a journalist and starting a new job alongside my day-to-day self care without her support, and for that I am forever grateful.

I really hope that it works, and doesn’t send me into another relapse from overdoing it.

I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I have my life, I’m able to work and can do so from the safety of my own home.

But I really hope that one day I’ll get better.



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