Pre Covid: I qualified as a nurse in October 2019. I started working in the Respiratory Ward in December 2019 then Covid hit and my ward became the main covid ward as it was named a “Respiratory illness”. I unfortunately caught covid and had to isolate for 14 days. I was extremely unwell – coughing, fever, headaches, chills, muscle weakness, lung pain etc and had to stay at home until May in order to recover. I had to start doing small walks to get my stamina back up and all the while was getting phone calls from my ward saying we were short staffed and dealing with severe covid patients and I was needed back on the ward asap, so I ended up going back sooner than I was able because I felt horrendous about being off when my colleagues were struggling, and they were calling me everyday finding out when I’d be able to come back and telling me if I stayed off for any longer then my pay would go down to half pay.
I went back to the ward in June 2020 and went immediately into 12 hour shifts in the covid ward – I relapsed and was experiencing stomach pains, migraines, muscle weakness and fatigue and had to take off for another three weeks. I then went back to work on a phased return for a week in July 2020 straight into the covid ward where multiple patients were dying each day and I was only newly qualified. We had patients trying to leave the ward to go for cigarettes and had to get security in to get them back into the ward and had other extremely horrendous experiences that I’ve had to go for therapy for to get over.
The ward was split into two sections when covid died down a bit and there was the covid side and the Respiratory side. Each nurse was to take their turn working in the covid side and the respiratory side equally but some nurses and clinical staff members refused as they had elderly parents to look after and bring food too as lockdown was in force. So I was in the covid side for two straight months as “I didn’t have any family to look after and no children and I was over here by myself”. So many people died each day and we were working so hard to save them but still so many died. A wife and husband came in to the ward – both with covid. We were able to get them to sit together to have a meal one evening, that night the husband took off his oxygen mask and was found dead at the end of the bed. We had to tell the wife and she died a few days later leaving their daughter an orphan in just a few days. They were in their 60s. I used to ring my mum each day and she used to know how many people died by the tone of my voice. I asked the Charge Nurse if I could have just one day in the respiratory side so I could have a break from people dying and I got one day in the respiratory side and then I was put back in the covid side again for a few more months. I didn’t get to see my family for over 7 months or Christmas.
I decided to move home in April 2021 after a year of working in the covid ward. I kept getting every illness that was going around since going back to work in July. Every cold, cough, stomach bug and was more fatigued than usual. I began work in the Urology ward in my local hospital in June 2021 where we were short staffed, had patients who were waiting on nursing home placements and were double turns, some days we had no clinical staff members to help, wandering patients, violent patients etc. and it was extremely difficult. Covid broke out in the ward in December. I went home on Christmas Eve, had Christmas Day at home and went back to work on Boxing Day.
Post Covid: My brother tested positive on the 28th of December so I had to tell my ward that and got tested myself – I was negative but started to have a bad cough/chest infection, extremely sore lungs that i wasn’t able to take a deep breath, chills, extreme fatigue, a temperature, dizziness when I tried to stand up, my parents had to help me to the bathroom, I could not sit up at the table to eat, debilitating headaches and was bedbound from the 29th of December over New Year’s. I was in bed for a full month with all of these symptoms, and I’ve had these symptoms since. I spoke to the doctors in February 2022, ended up in A&E having multiple tests done and my bloods came back clear, they told me I had long covid.
I was in A&E another time with a chest infection and was told again it was long covid and was given an inhaler. The whole year of 2022 I couldn’t move out of bed without help, wasn’t able to stand up for more than 5/10 mins, debilitating fatigue, sore lungs, headaches, light sensitivity, unable to manage temperature, dizziness, extremely brain fog where I couldn’t remember words or the names of my family amongst other symptoms. I was diagnosed with long covid and asthma as a result in January 2023 after no help from the GP by a respiratory consultant.
I was put on antidepressants as I wasn’t coping with the loss of independence and flashback from the covid ward and everything I experienced there. I still have flashbacks but was able to go to a private EMDR therapist to help with them. I am still struggling with my sleep, diet (nausea and no hunger pangs), showering, I cannot make my own dinner or drive for longer than 5 minutes in my car due to fatigue and brain fog. I have mobility aids to help me with showering and brushing my teeth. I have had to use a wheelchair to get to my appointments in the hospital for physiotherapy which they said I was too fatigued to do, and counselling.
My life has changed drastically since 2021 when I contracted covid and I am now being put forward for “Ill health retirement” at the age of 29 due to not being able to work in the NHS as a nurse. I am hopefully going to pulmonary rehab in order to help which I’ve been on the waiting list since my diagnosis in March 2023. I am going to oxygen therapy in order to help my lungs and fatigue which hasn’t worked really and I’ve had over 10 sessions. After every outing, I have to get back to bed and lie down for a 2/3 hour nap as I am extremely fatigued and nauseous, high heart rate etc from mobilising and going to appointments. If I have a coffee with a friend I will be bedbound for a few days afterwards. My mother has had to drop down to 4 days a week in her job as a teacher to try and help me improve my life.
Long covid has affected my family as well as myself and there is no help from the GPs as there isn’t much known about long covid. I really hope you’re able to help me and others like myself as our entire lives have changed and we are no longer the people we were in 2019, and neither are our families.