A dedicated NHS nurse fears she will never return to work because of the devastating effect of Long Covid.
Saskia Mulder, 41, was among the first wave of doctors to get coronavirus back in March 2020.
At first she thought she would be back with her colleagues within a few weeks, but almost two years later she is still experiencing the debilitating effects of the disease.
Saskia, a Belfast deputy head of department, said “rehabilitation” for Long Covid patients has been ineffective, and called for a complete overhaul of the way the condition is treated.
Before becoming ill, she worked regular 13-hour shifts several times a week.
Although she is now unable to walk long distances and experiences acute pain, nausea and extreme fatigue, as well as struggling to read and follow conversations.
Saskia, who used to balance her grueling job of working as a reiki practitioner, told The Mirror: “I just want my old life back, I’ve had enough of just being sick. Whether I can ever return to work is up in the air.
“I was a very independent woman and did not have to trust anyone.
“Now I can not stand without a stick, and I can not walk for more than five to ten minutes. I can not read, I can not have long conversations, and my eyesight has deteriorated.
“It’s so hard to fight now, I do not have the strength and endurance. Every time I get relapses, I go into a very dark place.
“My son has witnessed his mother become this woman who cries all the time.”
Being constantly ill has had a terrible impact on Saskia’s mental health, leaving her suicidal when her condition returns.
But despite this, she said she has not been offered any effective treatment and she has now applied to travel to Germany to get groundbreaking microcoagulation treatment which is not available in the UK.
She told The Mirror: “I’m made it feel like it’s in my head, it’s an awful, awful feeling.
“So many of us have been told we need to get back up and running, the education around it is awful.
“We need to be seen face to face and we need to have the correct tests.”
In the months after she received Covid-19 after treating patients who had the newly-onset disease, Saskia was offered online training classes, but says these did more harm than good.
“I’ve been to rehab programs, but they’ve almost ruined me,” she said.
“It’s made me have a massive relapse. There’s no amount of psychology that will make my Long Covid get better, it’s a physical illness.”
Michael MacLennan, CEO of charity covid: aid, told The Mirror that Sakia’s experience is not unusual.
He said: “At covid: aid we have consistently heard about experiences where people with very real physical experiences as a result of Long Covid have been gas-lit and told that it is ‘in their head’ – unfortunately also from doctors.
“There is a desperate need for more attention and training so that people with Long Covid can receive the treatment they need and not experience stigma beyond the trauma they are already experiencing.”
New research has suggested that Long Covid is a vascular disease that causes microplugs in the blood plasma.
Experts believe this may explain why people with the condition become short of breath, despite respiratory tests coming back again.
Saskia has now put her name down to travel to Germany for microcoagulation treatment in the hope that it can relieve her pain.
“We have to look at this as nothing else works,” she said.
Researchers have called for more research into whether blood clots are responsible for patients enduring symptoms for as long as Covid infection.
A study led by Prof Resia Pretorius, who heads the Department of Physiological Sciences at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, found evidence that people with Covid are likely to develop small blood clots.
Researchers wrote: “It is also now accepted that coagulation pathology is central to acute COVID-19. Several autopsy results have also confirmed microthrombosis throughout the lung and associated with right ventricular dilatation of the heart.”
It determined that patients are likely to benefit from “a regimen of continued anticoagulation therapy to support fibrinolytic system function”.
Prof Pretorius has said that more research is needed to provide further understanding of the link between blood clots and Long Covid.