Living with long Covid: 'Before I had Covid, I walked 10km every day – now I can barely manage 3km'

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Thousands of people worldwide are suffering from the lingering effects of Covid-19 – from anxiety and struggling to breathe to severe fatigue. Health24 spoke to a number of long haulers. This is Sherri-Lee's story.

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Sherri-Lee, 41

Contracted Covid-19 in March 2021.

Before I had Covid, I walked 10 km every day. Now I can barely manage 3 km. If I do 3 km, the next day I’m absolutely finished. When I get home I’ve got to lie down and sleep for two hours. I can't get through a day without having to sleep (during the day) because the fatigue is so bad.

I have an autoimmune disease called fibromyalgia, so when I got Covid I was flagged as high risk. I’ve been to my doctor about four times and was put on steroids because Covid attacks your internal organs and causes inflammation everywhere. I ended up getting a stomach ulcer because of the inflammation in my stomach. It’s been quite hectic.

I suffer from anxiety, and after Covid I just couldn’t cope. I'm on a higher dose of antidepressants and I’m taking Anafranil just about every single day now, where I only used to take it occasionally. So the anxiety is part of the after-effects of Covid, especially as we don’t know how long the antibodies will remain effective.

This means that I'm scared to leave the house because I don’t want to go through the whole process again. I panic all the time. I’ve bought disinfectants for everything and there are hand sanitisers everywhere in my house. I've become absolutely paranoid.

Even when I clean my flat, I'm absolutely finished the next day. My doctor said to me: "You can look at six months to a year of post-Covid symptoms to recover from," and because I’m autoimmune, that’s my reality. It’s not pleasant.

For me, the most difficult part of it is the fatigue and what makes it worse is that some people think I’m lazy. It’s a complete lack of education. Your body cannot get through the day and it feels like you’ve gone two to three days without sleep when it's only been two to three hours. It’s the worst feeling.

I also found that the digestive issues I had under control before Covid got out of control again. I don’t see how the body can recover from the strain of Covid so quickly. One's immune system just isn't strong enough to fight all these symptoms.

I’m full of panic. One morning I woke up with my nose blocked and feeling flu-ish, and I literally went cold.

I can’t carry on like this. I’m terrified of even getting a normal cold. I just cannot go through this nightmare again.

*Many people suffer from the long-term effects of Covid-19, even many months later. If you are one of those people, and wish to share your experience, let us know, and your story can be told in our Living with long Covid series. You are not alone. E-mail your stories to zakiyah.ebrahim@24.com

*For more Covid-19 research, science and news, click here. You can also sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter here.

READ | Long Covid: More than 200 symptoms identified, many with a negative effect on work life

READ | If you’re living with long Covid, a Stellenbosch University researcher needs your help

READ | Like a 'blanket of fatigue': Inside Groote Schuur’s long Covid clinic

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