In early March 2020, 23-year-old Evie Connell’s average week would see her go to the gym around four times, work shifts at a busy supermarket and cram in her studying.
Now she needs help walking 100 metres and, in her own words, feels older than her gran.
The Abertay University student, who had no underlying health problems, was first bed-ridden with suspected Covid-19 on Mother’s Day.
The following fortnight saw her battle every symptom under the sun.
Despite almost nine months passing, she’s still not better and is one of an estimated 60,000 people in the UK with symptoms for more than three months.
“I’m 23 – I didn’t think I would be like this,” Evie says.
“It’s not the same life I had before.
“But I have to accept this has happened.”
Blue lips and ‘the worst headache ever’
Little-understood long Covid has baffled medical experts worldwide and is still not medically definitive.
Most recognise more research is needed if individuals are to wrestle back their pre-pandemic lives.
For Evie, who hails from Inverclyde, it all started before authorities in the UK recognised the scale of the threat.
She can’t be sure where she picked it up but suspects it was in her customer-facing role long before face masks were made compulsory.
Although she was not hospitalised, it hit her like a ton of bricks.
Her partner Nick Ballingall also fell ill with the virus, although his symptoms were not as severe.
Evie’s main issus were blurred vision, loss of sense of smell, blue lips, “the worst headache ever”, and intense breathlessness.
These all occurred within the first week or so and most days she slept for 22 hours.
After shaking off some of the symptoms, she returned to work but seriously struggled.
This saw her forced to spend a day in hospital with breathlessness six weeks after her initial illness.
The third year Marketing and Business student said: “I managed to finish my studies.
“But there’s a four-month gap where all I did was work and sleep.
“The doctors eventually told me to pace my recovery. I was signed off and I phoned my mum in tears.
“I was relieved someone had acknowledged something was wrong with me.
“Although I’m back at uni, I’m still off work now and I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back.”
How does Evie feel now?
She continues to suffer from debilitating fatigue and a worryingly high heart rate.
Just recently, she had to seek help after struggling to walk from a car park to nearby Abertay University.
The incident has seen her referred to cardiology for further assessment.
She also still finds it hard to concentrate with intermittent ‘brain fog’.
After a particularly busy day she often needs two days in bed to recover.
In some areas of the UK, long Covid patients have complained about a lack of support from health services.
However, throughout the trauma Evie says has been well supported by NHS Tayside’s dedicated CARES service.
Covid-19 Assessment Rehabilitation Enablement and Support (CARES) offers support to adults with ongoing symptoms.
This is provided through regular check-ups on video link or over the phone.
‘I’m hopeful I’ll get better soon’
Despite everything, the optimistic and bubbly student says she “hasn’t even considered” whether the symptoms could be here to stay for life.
“It’s been a really hard time for everyone but things are looking positive for next year.
“’I’m hopeful I’ll get better soon but I grieve my normal life a lot.
“I miss working, going to the gym and just doing normal things.
“I could not have gotten through all this without help from the NHS, my fiancé Nick, and family and friends.
“One thing I’m really thankful for is that I can still taste food. I’ll take eating a slice of pizza over smelling it any day.”
As the festive period looms, Evie advises everyone to be careful when seeing relatives.
She said: “It’s really disheartening to see people completely disregarding everyone else’s wellbeing by having parties.
“It’s really selfish.
“Most people grasp the seriousness of it though.
“If we all go about it safely, it will be OK to see family at Christmas.”
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