Man's '10 month of hell' on journey to long Covid treatment
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
A man has opened up about his "10 months of hell" with long Covid, as hundreds of people are referred onto a new clinic for the condition in its first four months open.
More than 370 people have been referred for treatment at the region's community trust, including many of working age.
Among them is Paul Spriggins, a company director from Hardingham, who said he had never been to hospital before last March, when he started experiencing stomach problems, breathing difficulties and fatigue.
Then 43, his symptoms were not the typical signs of coronavirus at the time, but later would become common symptoms of long Covid.
In the space of a month, he was taken to hospital five times, the first with a pain in his chest, prompting concerns he had a heart attack. He was not admitted, meaning he was not tested for Covid.
The 44-year-old said: "It got to the point where I couldn't breathe, was really fatigued and just felt unwell. On the Saturday evening, I felt like my chest had been set on fire."
Three days later he was back in hospital when he became paralysed on his left side, a symptom he still has today.
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Over the coming months, he struggled to walk, experienced muscle spasms and pain and vision issues, leading to tests for multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease - all of which came back negative.
He said his symptoms were dismissed as health anxiety, in part due to him not having a Covid diagnosis - something he urged the medical profession not to "write off".
The company director said: "You have got all these symptoms, you are not imagining them, you cannot breathe and my chest felt as if someone had set me on fire.
"I had a period of two weeks that I started to feel better, how wrong was I? Then the change came and it really impacted me and brought my life to a standstill.
"It has only been in the last two to three months that I have been able to get back to doing anything that resembles the life I had before catching Covid.
"I haven't been able to return to the gym, I cannot even think about the gym."
Mr Spriggins continues to suffer from muscle spasms, twitching, severe muscle pain, restricted movement in his left side, impact on his vision and brain fog.
He continued to push for a diagnosis and on learning about post-Covid clinics, he asked to be referred, but doctors were initially unsure as he had not tested positive for Covid in the last 12 weeks.
But the Norfolk Community Health and Community Trust (NCH&C) which runs the clinic, scheduled a 90 minute consultation and determined Mr Spriggins was suitable for neurological rehabilitation to treat post Covid symptoms.
Mr Spriggins said: "It affects so many different people in so many different ways. We have the same symptoms but in a different order, or one or two symptoms become your main symptom.
“There needs to be more of an acceptance of people like me who still have symptoms of what I had last April, May, June and we have no guidance.
“I do not know if this is going to be life-changing and how my life is going to be or if there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are the lucky ones, we haven’t died from Covid.
“We are stuck and we do not know where this is going to."
Mr Spriggins has begun shifts as a volunteer at the Castle Quarter vaccination centre, which is his way of "fighting back" from the virus after "10 months of hell".
NCH&C has been running the clinic since December and is working to increase awareness with GPs to refer people to the service.
Allison Coxon, clinical lead for the Post-Covid Assessment Service, said as more data emerged around post-Covid, it had been a challenge to plan for "unknown demand".
She said: "There have also been complexities in identifying what is linked to post-Covid and what is not.
"The majority of patients are of working age, and most from the initial wave of Covid-19, though we are now starting to have patients through with residual symptoms from the second and third waves."
The team is seeing a wide-ranging number of symptoms but the most common include breathlessness, extreme tiredness or chronic fatigue, brain fog, anxiety and stress.
Other common symptoms are chest pain or tightness, difficulty sleeping (insomnia), heart palpitations, tinnitus, earaches, a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat and changes to sense of smell or taste.
Patients are consulted and then will receive treatment, attend group therapy sessions and resources on the Your Covid Recovery website.