'I’m 22 And Have Long Covid. Some Days It’s Hard To Even Move'
When Jade Townsend contracted coronavirus in mid March, she was sure she would be over the worst of it within a couple of weeks.
Aged just 22, and with no underlying health conditions, the nursery practitioner from Oxford certainly didn't fall into the high risk category.
But four weeks on from what started as a sore throat and a tight chest, and Jade was struggling to breathe. It was then she realised the 'mild illness' she had expected was actually something very different.
After several months of suffering both debilitating and terrifying symptoms - including severe fatigue, intense muscle pain, nausea and a recurrent fever - Jade has now been diagnosed with long Covid, a term used to describe the potentially devastating long term impact of coronavirus.
A new study by King's College London reveals one in 20 people with coronavirus are likely to have symptoms for eight weeks or more, with long Covid affecting 10 per cent of 18-49 year olds who contract the virus.
There are currently no definitive answers about why some people are suffering - or how long recovery will take - something which can be very difficult to come to terms with for those battling the invisible illness.
But more is being done. Recently, the NHS announced a £10m investment in long Covid clinics in every area of England.
Now, teaming up with the Department of Health and Social Care for an emotive new campaign video, Jade wants to raise awareness of the severity of the illness, in the hope it will make others realise that it really can happen to anyone - of any age.
You can watch the video below:
Here, Jade tells Tyla about the reality of long Covid; how it's left her jobless, severely fatigued and on some days, struggling to move.
"It was mid March and just before the UK went into lockdown that I first started with a sore throat and a tight chest," Jade tells us.
"Soon, it progressed into a cough, a fever and a really bad headache and after two weeks of suffering, I realised I had coronavirus.
"At that time I couldn't get a test, so I isolated, thinking it would be over within a couple of weeks. After all, we've been told throughout the pandemic that most people simply suffer from a mild illness - especially the young - and I don't have any underlying conditions that could have made it worse.
"For that reason, I never expected it to be as bad as it was. But after a month of having symptoms, I was struggling to breathe and in April I ended up staying overnight in hospital where I was given fluids and antibiotics."
At the time, Jade didn't realise she was at the start of what would be a long road ahead.
"Eight months on and I now know I'm suffering with what they call 'long Covid'," she continues.
"I have extreme fatigue, headaches, nausea, brain fog, recurrent fevers and a fast heart rate. Lung function tests show my airways are damaged due to the virus and I have to have regular check ups at Covid clinics.
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"Last week I ended up back in hospital because my blood clotting levels had raised."
According to the NHS, there is some evidence that coronavirus can increase the chance of blood clots, but it's not currently clear why.
Jade, whose life has been turned upside down by the long term effects of Covid, tells us she's concerned and anxious over the number of people who think the virus cannot affect the young.
"I'm only 22 and my life has completely changed. I haven't been able to work since March and whereas before I was always gong out with mates, now I have to plan everything," she continues.
"For example, if I go out to visit a friend, I know I won't be able to go out the following day - the fatigue will just be too much. Every day varies, but some days it's hard to even move far because I suffer from painful aches all over my body. I don't look ill from the outside but inside, I'm struggling to cope.
"It's really affected my mental health, being like this has been hard to take in. I've had to adapt my life so much and it is frustrating. My friends have been so understanding and supportive, they know how bad it is.
"But not everyone gets it. I wish the people who don't take it seriously could live a day in my life and realise what I've been through and continue to go through.
"My main worry now is if I'm going to get better. Will I be able to go back to the job I loved? I just don't know. One of the most challenging parts of this whole experience is that until now, people haven't really understood what long Covid is.
"It really is an invisible illness but one that just wasn't recognised a few months ago. At that time I was just constantly battling to get through each day, I had no idea what was gong on inside my body and it was terrifying."
Jade explains that although she did have some antibodies for the virus earlier in the year, a recent test revealed she no longer has any at all - something she feels especially anxious about.
"I worry about catching it again. I was tested for antibodies a few months after contracting the virus and the test did show that I had some. However, I was recently tested about month ago and the antibodies have now completely gone," she says.
"Knowing how my body reacted to catching it the first time, I am worried about what would happen if I caught it again. For that reason, I do feel so strongly about following the restrictions and I am really cautious.
"I'm mainly staying in the house at the moment, partly because the fatigue is so severe but also because of the rising numbers."
But why did Jade suffer so badly with the virus? Well, the answer is that nobody really knows.
"I work in a nursery so there's a chance I could have caught the virus there as we had some parents test positive - but I also get the bus to work so it could have been that.
"Around the time I had it my friend also did and she works in a hospital. There were lots of different people I could have potentially caught it from and maybe that's why I had it so bad, maybe I contracted lots of different strains."
Not knowing what the future hold is something that Jade finds particularly daunting. In the coming weeks and months, she has lung function tests, to determine whether her lungs have improved as well as an MRI scan of her brain.
"I've got some more tests coming up to see if my body is healing or if it's going to be even more of a long term issue. The scariest part is not knowing when this will end, or if it will at all.
"To anyone who thinks they don't need to be careful, please - it can affect anyone of any age and no one is risk free."
To follow Jade's recovery journey, you can check out her Instagram page here.
Featured Image Credit: Department of Health and Social Care
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