Living with long Covid: 'It’s like I need more sleep than I’ve ever needed before'

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Thousands of people worldwide are suffering from the lingering effects of Covid-19 – from severe fatigue and struggling to breathe to coping with memory or hair loss. Health24 spoke to a number of long haulers. This is Parveen's story.

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Parveen, 31

Contracted Covid-19 in June 2020.

I didn’t know I was infected. I was about to go for a small hospital procedure, but part of being admitted was a Covid test – which came back positive. Because of working from home, I sit at the computer for hours on end.

I did experience body pain, but attributed that to not sitting properly at my computer. I was also tired, but fatigue can easily happen when one is overworked, and I had been overworked.

I was sick for three weeks. I developed excessive body pain and slept during most of the first two weeks. I tried to do some light walking as exercise, but it wasn’t a good idea – as I ended up falling down the stairs.

With long Covid, I noticed hair loss, so I increased my IV drips and bought a strong collagen brand, which I’m still using to counteract the hair loss. Most of my family members who had Covid are complaining about excessive hair loss. I also still get the shivers now and then. It feels like you're nervous inside your body. I don’t know if it makes sense.

I’m still feeling fatigued and the body pain is back; it's something I just can't seem to get over. I spoke to my doctor who said, "These are long-term effects; you are not going to be completely the same – you are going to feel fatigue and body pain every now and then; it is part of it, but should clear up.”

The minute I’m with a lot of people, or when I go to the shopping mall, I can’t handle it. I can't go out for too long. After two to three hours, I need to take a nap. And after the first six months of infection, it was very, very hard to mix with people, also because of the stigma attached to Covid.

People treat you really badly when you have Covid, and even afterwards they’re afraid of you. And even though I was cautious before I got Covid, I've become even more cautious afterwards. I've seen very few people – not only because of how they might treat me, but because I might get it again. I was warned that I should be very careful during the six months after infection because if I got it again, my survival chances might not be so good.

It was quite scary. Being away from everybody and alone in a room (during isolation) is very traumatic. It’s not okay, especially if you’re a very affectionate, outgoing, extroverted person. It’s very hard to cope with. What you need the most is for people to support you; to do a drive-by; send you messages – that is what got me through.

The doctors don’t have all the answers. They tell you: "This is new for us, so it’s trial and error." Doctors told me that after 14 days I could resume work, but I couldn’t do my normal work. I was down to maybe 30 to 40% of my normal workload.

Now, I am back at work but I feel like I’m not working as hard and as fast, and getting things done as I did in January to May 2020, before Covid-19. I’m not the same person in terms of working a full day and getting up early.

It’s like I need more sleep than I’ve ever needed before. It’s very frustrating. I do see my doctor very often and we run regular blood tests, so it’s an ongoing process. It’s quite annoying but I’m glad I’m still alive.

*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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