This couple's long Covid story is heartbreaking: 'Terrified that I might never recover'

In our next segment of Conversations with Oh!MyMag, we spoke to people who have long Covid. Here’s what it is and why you should take the virus seriously, especially now that it is mostly considered a thing of the past.

Long covid effects real story couple
© Paterson / Amazon Studios
Long covid effects real story couple

The height of the Covid-19 pandemic is behind us. That is a fact. However, it would be delusional to believe that Covid-19 no longer exists and doesn’t still impact people all over the world.

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On 5 October 2023, The Guardian wrote:

While data from UK Health Security Agency (UKSA) suggested levels of Covid had risen in England over the past few months (...) the latest report indicates this appears to have stabilised.

However, scientists are unable to predict the future and, as we see new variants emerge, it seems difficult to believe that Covid-19 doesn’t still pose a threat. In the past few months, new variants have brought new symptoms. But, as this happened, the general attitude towards the virus drastically changed.

In November 2023, it appears that Covid-19 can be turned into a meme and that social distancing or masks are something that should never be brought back. But, even more than three years after the first lockdown, the virus continues to plague some people’s lives.

To understand how, we have spoken to people who suffer from long Covid.

What is long Covid?

The first thing you should know about long Covid is that it is ‘new’. The NHS explains that its newness makes it difficult to fully understand it. Therefore, the symptoms we cite below are not the only ones that exist.

According to the NHS the most common symptoms of long Covid are:

  • ‘extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • feeling short of breath
  • loss of smell
  • muscle aches’

Though these symptoms are similar to those of normal Covid-19, the difference lies in how long they last. The NHS explains that while most people will ‘feel better within a few days or weeks’, people who suffer from long Covid will have these symptoms, amongst others, for longer.

How long? Well that’s difficult to determine. Just like the severity of Covid-19, long Covid is dependent on each individual. In order to try and understand it, researchers at Imperial College London launched a study called REACT Long Covid.

REACT-LC aims to identify new approaches to diagnosing, supporting and managing Long COVID.
(it) involves follow-up of over 120,000 people to understand why some people who are infected continue to have symptoms for several weeks or months

The result of this study led to a comprehensive illustration made by Monique Jackson that depicts some of the symptoms. The aim of this illustration is to raise awareness as long Covid remains widely unknown.

Long Covid symptoms Monique Jackson & Imperial College London

To give you an idea of how real long Covid is, in November 2021, a study led by several researchers for nature medicine revealed that ‘the number of people in the UK that are self-reporting symptoms lasting more than 4 weeks’ was at a staggering ‘1.1 million’. In February 2023, according to the Office of National Statistics, that number had gone up to ‘an estimated 2 million.’

Of course, this problem is not restricted to the UK alone. For many who were infected around the world, Covid is still a problem that affects their daily life - including Mark and Lucy, a couple who have been dealing with the virus since December 2020.

A couple's terrible experience with long Covid

Lucy was already recovering from burnout when her brother, who was visiting his family in Amsterdam, unknowingly passed the virus onto her. Mark had been looking after his girlfriend 'almost all the time' as she took time out to get better. She explains that her Covid symptoms were not recognisable at first:

It was mostly like any other flu for me, and not even the worst one I’d had. I had a temperature, but no fever. I felt very weak, had a cough, a blocked nose and lost my sense of smell and most of my sense of taste too.

Mark, who lives with Lucy and her parents, developed similar symptoms. Interestingly, he didn't get a fever either. The thing that made this illness stand out from others was that it took a long time to recover: it took three whole weeks for the worst of the symptoms to subside.

Effects of long Covid

While the others symptoms disappeared, there was one telltale effect of long Covid that hung around. As Mark explains:

My first signs of long-covid was that my tiredness just didn’t disappear, whereas my cold/ temperature went away pretty quickly.
When I did things around the house I became exhausted, yet I thought this was normal whilst having a flu thing, but this actually stayed around much longer than usual.

His reaction to the virus was worsened by the fact that he has asthma. He kept waking up in the night, so much so that he ended up ringing the emergency number for a doctor. Thankfully, his asthma didn't cause too many complications and he was sent an inhaler that had stronger medication than he usually took. Meanwhile, for Lucy:

My symptoms of long Covid and burnout were very similar, and it was only because of the increase in intensity of my fatigue and the addition of physical exhaustion and weakness — I felt like an 80 year old walking up the stairs to my front door — that I knew something else was at play on top of my already existing burnout.

She said 'it’s almost impossible to explain this kind of fatigue to anyone who hasn’t experienced it themselves'. This, of course, builds up a terrible feeling of helplessness:

I felt angry that it happened to me and terrified that I might never recover.

Lack of understanding about long Covid

Neither Lucy nor Mark received an official diagnosis in the beginning, because the pair were struggling with long Covid as the term was being created. This was very frustrating, especially for Mark whose family was in the UK:

it was extremely difficult to explain and have them understand. This effected my relationship with them.

He does go on to describe how emotional he got when he saw a woman on TV detailing her experience with long Covid:

I was one of the first people to really get long-covid, as far as I could tell and the term 'found us' rather than us being labelled.
What was really moving though was seeing some woman on the news in the UK who was in tears with confusion as she had long-covid. No one could understand her condition and she stopped working and stuff - that was very moving as I felt the same way!

Covid's impact now and hope for the future

Neither Mark nor Lucy were able to work as they struggled to recover from long Covid. Mark tried to start again in a shoe shop but the running up and down the stairs all day was far too tiring and he 'couldn't handle it at the time'. He felt 'a lot of existential guilt with not working', as he was 'significantly supported financially' by his family. Now, he's back at work but Lucy is still recovering.

The virus has impacted everyone in the household, as Lucy explains:

My parents got it too, so we’ve had a few quite difficult years, that we’re slowly coming out of now, in which even gathering the energy to buy and cook food and clean up afterwards was a challenge on most days.

This couple's experience highlights how often long Covid is underestimated. Now, Mark and Lucy's symptoms are slowly starting to get better, but as new variants continue to make their way across the globe, it is important to remain informed about coronavirus - and its potentially long-lasting effects.

Names have been changed for the purposes of this article.

Read more:

Boris Johnson set for an explosive few days as former team to reveal all before Covid inquiry

Covid-19: Do at-home tests detect the new variants? Here's what an expert has to say

Covid-19: This is what it’s really like to have the virus in 2023


The Guardian: What’s the state of Covid in the UK – and how is it being tracked?

The Standard: Tens of thousands in England may have Covid symptoms lasting more than a year


Imperial College London: REACT Long COVID

nature medicine: Understanding and tracking the impact of long COVID in the United Kingdom

Office for National Statistics: Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK: 2 February 2023

University of Minnesota: COVID-19 that confines you to bed for several days most likely to lead to long COVID, study finds

Long Covid can turn this part of your body blue Long Covid can turn this part of your body blue