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‘It changed my life but made me a better doctor’: Scots mum on her battle with Long Covid

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Long Covid robbed Dr Amy Small of her health. In just months she changed from a fit mum-of-two busy working as a GP, to ‘a shell of herself’.

Now Amy is issuing a plea to others to take every precaution this winter – as new figures reveal 99,000 Scots are living with Long Covid, a 7000 increase on last month.

She knows first hand just how devastating the condition is.

Here she tells us:

  • The impact of Long Covid on family life
  • Her message to unvaccinated people
  • How battling the condition has made her a better doctor
Dr Amy Small who lost her job due to Long Covid.                                                    Copyright Gary Doak

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, the charity supporting those living with Long Covid, fears we will see a further rise in cases this winter.

The mum-of-two, who is Clinical Advisor at the charity, became ill in March 2020.

She was a GP near Edinburgh but lost her job after debilitating Long Covid symptoms made it impossible for her to function fully.

What do you find most difficult about living with Long Covid?

“My experience with Long Covid has been a horrible rollercoaster,” Amy explains. “Everything I took for granted: the ability to sleep, eat, think and breathe changed.

“I went from being a healthy 39-year-old, working full-time, running several times a week, looking after young children, to a shell of myself – my health robbed from me.

Long Covid symptoms.

“It has been very difficult to accept I got sick, at work, during a pandemic, doing my duty. I feel, like many of my colleagues, we were let down by our government.

“We didn’t have appropriate PPE, and when we complained we were made to feel like we were making a fuss.

“Thousands of us have been left with chronic illness, losing our jobs, and our health but have had little support.

‘I felt very guilty’

“When I was ill we couldn’t get anyone to help us. My husband’s family are abroad and my mother lives down south so asking anyone to travel to help was impossible.

“It was also very hard being a doctor and being sick and not able to help out during the pandemic. I felt very guilty about that.”

Dr Amy Small.

How did you manage family life?

“When both my husband and I got sick with Covid, and Long Covid, our children were only three and five. It was really hard.

“We took it in turns to get up with them, help them get dressed and feed them.

“Our children invented a game where they would create a “sleep centre” for us and get us blankets and stroke our foreheads.

Man carries child on shoulders towards trampoline.
Amy’s children were gifted a trampoline to help them burn off energy when she had Long Covid.

“It was sweet but also incredibly sad looking back at how they felt they had to care for us.

“My mother generously bought a trampoline so the kids could burn off energy even when we couldn’t.

“I struggled at times to have the strength to brush their teeth having to hold one arm up with the other.”

Will your health ever be the same again?

“I had hoped it would be, but with every relapse I have, it’s hard to think that way.

“I’m feeling much better now. I still have relapses that set me back but when I’m well, I have the energy to exercise regularly and work full-time.

“I try to remain positive and see how far I’ve come. But some days I have to go to bed before the kids. That is upsetting. I’m hoping research will help us to learn more and get a cure.”

Covid vaccine administered

What is your message to people who don’t want vaccinations?

“This is not just a simple cold. It can kill and we are seeing at least 10% of people who have Covid go onto develop Long Covid.

“Any risk of vaccination is far lower than that of developing long term consequences of Covid infection. Getting fully vaccinated is vital.”

Did anything good come from your illness?

“It has made me a much better doctor for sure. I now have empathy for people living with chronic disease where before it was just sympathy.

“I have a much better understanding of illnesses which have been much misunderstood for years, like ME/CFS. I have a wonderful new job with CHSS I never would have had I not been sick with Long Covid.

“As someone living with the condition and supporting people who are, it’s so important to remind people to not be complacent.

“Keep yourselves and others safe by wearing face masks, getting your booster vaccine, and taking regular lateral flow tests.”

  • For Long Covid advice and information, contact Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’s Long Covid Advice Line on 0808 801 0899. You can also text NURSE to 66777 or email adviceline@chss.org.uk.

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