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FOCUS: The lasting impact of 'long covid'

FOCUS: The lasting impact of 'long covid'

Monday 15 February 2021

FOCUS: The lasting impact of 'long covid'


With the official number of 'active' cases in Jersey now below 50 for the first time since the autumn, the story of 17-year-old Aliyah Buesnel is a reminder that, for some, covid has not gone away.

While people, understandably, feel that there may be light at the end of the tunnel almost a year after Jersey’s first case, many continue to live with the lasting impact of the virus.

For the official statistics, someone is considered recovered after 14 days-  but that is not the case for Aliyah, and others like her who are still suffering from what has been called 'long covid'.

Recently, a UK immunologist said that the number of patients reporting symptoms of covid-19 weeks after becoming ill could be as high as 20%.

Professor Danny Altmann of Imperial College London called for more research into this relatively unknown condition and for specialist clinics to be created.

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Pictured: Aliyah Buesnel wants to share her story of living with long covid.

Aliyah, a Year 12 student at Jersey College for Girls, fully appreciates that there are many unknowns when it comes to long covid.

However, she knows - with crystal clarity - how she has felt since testing positive for covid at the end of October.

“I got it from visiting my uncle at the end of October,” she told Express. “We went to his house to see him; he didn’t know he had it at the time but a few days afterwards, he developed systems and tested positive. 

“My mum, my sister and I all got tested and we all thought we’d be fine because no one was displaying any symptoms. 

“By then, I was starting to have a few, slight symptoms, but I just thought it was in my head and I was completely fine. 

“We then got tested and I was the only one to be positive. Soon after, I noticed that my taste was muted and then I had a constant headache for two weeks and a little cough. 

“As the two weeks went on, it got worse and worse, and I ended up with pretty much every symptom. I had a really bad temperature and I lost my taste for a while, I was coughing and then I was just so tired. 

“I tried to get on with things because the expectation is that young people are fine with or without it, so, mentally, I pretended that I was ok."

But that decision to push through the difficulty turned out to be a harmful one, as Aliyah explained.

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Pictured: Aliyah learned that, despite expectations, young people can still experience severe illness from covid. 

“I still had all my lessons over Zoom but halfway through my two-week isolation I ended up fainting - I think it was because I was so tired and worn out.

“I was on my knees because I felt as though I was going to go over, so I wasn’t badly hurt, but it seems I did something to my ankle, because I was struggling to walk for a few weeks afterwards.

“After the two-week isolation period, I felt as though I was ok; I was still dizzy and tired but I thought that was probably because I had been stuck in a room for a fortnight. 

“The cough and headache had gone by then so I went back to school. 

“But since then I have felt really dizzy and tired. I went back to dancing the week after I was allowed out - I normally dance for three hours but I couldn’t get past half an hour without having to sit out because I felt so dizzy and faint. 

“I’ve never had that feeling before so it was quite weird. All my muscles were really achy too. I also had sore ankles; it was just all very different."

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Pictured: Aliyah tried to put on a brave face and continue with her lessons on Zoom during her isolation period, but ended up fainting.

And the effects haven't gone away.

“Since getting covid, my taste generally has been rather muted. It didn’t go completely and it was fine for about a month or two. And then about three weeks ago, I had some chicken and there was a strange taste coming from it. 

“I thought it might be one thing but when I tasted other chicken-related things, like eggs and mayonnaise, they all had the same taste. I can’t really describe what it is; it is like an aftertaste. It’s fine when I’m eating but if I stop or slow down, I get this weird taste. 

“It’s now spread out to every type of animal product so I went vegetarian to cut it all out but it is spreading to non-meat products, although it’s not half as bad.”

Recently, Aliyah’s health problems have increased.

“I went to see my GP three weeks ago and pointed out the fact that my fingers were beginning to swell. The doctor said that she wasn’t really concerned about it but I should come back in a month if it was still bad.

“I went away knowing at least someone had considered the problem, but over the next few days, back at school, it had spread to both hands and I couldn’t fully bend my fingers."

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Pictured: Aliyah says her taste has been affected as a result of long covid.

The swelling has led her to struggle with schoolwork.

“I can’t hold a pen at the moment and I can’t even type at a laptop because two of my fingers hurt so much. I’ve had to use my phone, typing with my thumbs, which now are really sore themselves. 

“My teacher said I should go to A&E but I thought I would wait it out, like my GP suggested, but the next day I had a biology lesson, and the teachers there were really concerned about it and told me I should definitely get it checked out.

“I went to A&E, where I took a blood test and told me they thought it was temporary rheumatoid arthritis, which would go in a couple of weeks. 

“But that two weeks has passed and it has gotten worse. The doctors said they are almost certain that it is linked to covid, but there isn’t much data on it because it’s so new. However, they said they have seen three other cases with the same symptoms, including some medical staff who have had it.

“They put those people on steroids for it but I’m too young for that. They said that I should go to my GP after two weeks if it hasn’t gone, which it hasn’t, so we now need to think of the next steps.”

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Pictured: Aliyah has been recently forced to go to A&E after her fingers seized. Doctors said it was likely to be connected to covid.

Aliyah is fighting long covid with both fortitude and a smile. Teachers and friends have been supportive, providing listening ears but also practical help if she can’t open or write something. 

She knows she isn’t alone, but hopes that more help and support can be provided for people like her, who have found the road of recovery from covid to be far from straight or easy.

A Government spokesperson said that health professionals are due to meet to discuss their approach to long covid later this month.

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Posted by Donal Dolo on
i was one of the first to get it im still ill now year later
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