Long COVID patient, 57, 'has good and bad days' nearly a year on from coronavirus

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Liz Walker (pictured before she caught the coronavirus) has been enduring long COVID for nearly a year. (Supplied: COVERSCAN)
Liz Walker (pictured before she caught the coronavirus) has been enduring long COVID for nearly a year. (Supplied: COVERSCAN)

A woman who caught the coronavirus nearly a year ago has "good and bad days" while enduring long COVID.

Not everyone who overcomes the infection returns to a clean bill of health, with hundreds of thousands in the UK alone thought to have lingering complications after supposedly clearing the virus.

In October 2020, Liz Walker, 57, told Yahoo UK she was "not the same person" after being hospitalised with the coronavirus that April.

Five months on, the NHS worker continues to endure breathlessness, palpitations and extreme fatigue.

Read more: Up to 89% hospitalised with coronavirus endure long COVID months later

With long COVID somewhat of a mystery, the mother-of-four has been prescribed high doses of vitamin D after tests revealed her blood levels were worryingly low.

While Walker works hard to stay positive, she admits she "can't keep having false hope" as doctors remain unable to give her an accurate prognosis.

Walker, pictured while recovering from the coronavirus in hospital, had a "'do not resuscitate' conversation" with her doctor. (Supplied: COVERSCAN)
Walker, pictured while recovering from the coronavirus in hospital, had a "'do not resuscitate' conversation" with her doctor. (Supplied: COVERSCAN)

Walker, who recently moved from Wiltshire to Gloucester, spent 16 days in hospital after catching the coronavirus from a patient at work.

After having a "'do not resuscitate' conversation" with her doctor, Walker pulled through, but "never stopped experiencing the symptoms of COVID".

Five months since speaking to Yahoo UK, she claims her condition has "slightly worsened".

Walker already had chronic fatigue syndrome and arthritis, which may be causing more severe symptoms in themselves as she gets older.

The "dramatic increase in pain" makes her point the finger at long COVID, however.

Over the past five months, Walker has noticed her hand grip and walking deteriorate, as well as continued complications that affect her quality of life.

Read more: Scientists get grasp on long COVID's cause

"The breathlessness is still here," she told Yahoo UK. "Walking across the road has me puffing and panting like I've run a mile.

"The palpitations are [also] a side effect of long COVID.

"There is no rhyme or reason as to when the palpitations turn up. It seems to be one of those things; just a remnant of COVID."

Walker's tinnitus, which she had pre-coronavirus, has also worsened.

"I have good days and bad days," she said. "Sometimes it can get you down."

Once a keen photographer and kite-flyer, long COVID prevents Walker from doing the hobbies she loves.

"I'm kind of frustrated that has become my new normality," she said.

"You never saw me without my camera. My camera case has now got dust on top of it."

Walker is even considering selling one of her heavier cameras so "someone will have the joy out of it I got".

Watch: What is long COVID?

In more positive news, a heart scan carried out in November revealed no underlying damage.

Walker is awaiting the results of a second whole body scan she had as part of the clinical trial COVERSCAN.

"We will see the comparison with the first one," she said.

In the meantime, blood tests revealed Walker's vitamin D and zinc levels were abnormally low, prompting her to take supplements.

She is on her second round of prescribed vitamin D tablets, with the first "making a difference".

"I wasn't falling asleep every five minutes," said Walker.

She also has a phone consultation with an NHS physiotherapist once a month.

Long COVID treatment is somewhat muddled, with official guidance recommending patients set realistic goals and join support forums.

Having used hydrotherapy and massage to manage her chronic fatigue, Walker is eagerly awaiting the services reopening post-lockdown.

Read more: Long COVID given official diagnosis

In the meantime, Walker relies on over-the-counter painkillers and an at-home foot massager to "ease the lethargy in her legs".

To reduce her palpitations, Walker allows herself just one caffeinated coffee a day, while also cutting back on sugar, fat and salt.

Rather than walking, Walker does gentle at-home stretches and cardiovascular exercises several times a week.

"I'm ever-conscious," she said. "Even going shopping, I can be halfway round and my energy has dropped to the floor. I need to lean on the trolley."

Walker, who has received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, is well enough to return to her part-time job as an NHS activity coordinator.

"It's good, [but] I've had to take a few days off sick [due to long COVID]," she said.

Looking to the future, Walker is eager to see whether the vitamin D and zinc supplements improve her condition.

Part of her has accepted, however, "this is it" going forward.

"There is a part of you that has to sit there and say, 'this is what you have to accept'," said Walker.

"You can't keep having false hope. I expected more [improvement] by now."

Watch: Do coronavirus vaccines affect fertility?

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