Havant woman admits concerns over long-term impact on health after struggling with 'wicked' coronavirus illness
A FIT and healthy woman who confessed to being a ‘bit cocky’ about the impact of Covid-19 says she fears for her long-term health after being struck down by the ‘wicked’ illness.
Anna Rowen suddenly became ill on March 19 with excruciating symptoms that included a tight chest where her ‘lungs felt like they were on fire’ and she had ‘red hot pokers’ inside her chest.
The Havant single mum, who had no underlying health conditions, was taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital by paramedics as her ‘petrified’ 11-year-old son watched on.
After spending a day in a coronavirus outpatient ward undergoing blood tests and X-rays to determine what was wrong with her, the 43-year-old was sent home to recover where she continued to battle unpleasant symptoms.
Anna thought she was over the worse after starting to feel better. But her relief was short lived as she was struck down again.
‘Excitedly one morning I woke up, the sun was shining and went out for a bike ride - not a particularly long or strenuous one but one that would clear my head,’ Anna said.
‘The following night I woke in the night struggling to breath again with a temperature and feeling the burn back in my chest with a vengeance.
‘On calling the doctor first thing the next morning he diagnosed suspected pneumonia and treated me with antibiotics.
‘On completing the course I was starting to feel better so I returned to work and made it a day and half before I started to feel unwell again.’
What followed was a ‘roller-coaster’ few days of feeling marginally better before symptoms would return.
‘I thought I was getting over it again when I felt a new pain in my chest and thought I was having a heart attack,’ Anna said.
‘I was admitted to hospital for investigation as they feared I had a pulmonary embolism. But after numerous tests and a dose of blood thinners they confirmed the pain I was experiencing was due to costochondritis - inflammation of the cartilage rib cage which mimics symptoms of a heart attack.
‘Whilst obviously I was delighted to be told by the consultant I did not have a pulmonary embolism and my heart was healthy I cried with desperation as over eight weeks on I still felt awful.’
After feeling well enough to return to work for two weeks Anna then ‘crashed’ once again. ‘My lungs were aching with what felt like lead weights in them, I would suddenly become breathless for no apparent reason and suffer headaches and exhaustion that made my legs feel like they are made of jelly or have run a marathon,’ she said.
Anna was once again signed-off work by the doctor and has not been well enough to work since.
The mum admitted she is luckier than most after receiving ‘amazing’ support from her employers - where her job remains safe.
‘Others are not so fortunate. Other people have had their condition dismissed by GPs and their employers as having anxiety or other conditions,’ she said.
‘The wide-reaching and damaging consequence are more severe than what is portrayed in the news.
‘There are thousands like me who have long-lasting highly debilitating effects.’
Anna has been helped through her ordeal after joining the Covid UK Long Haulers Facebook group that has nearly 2,000 members who are also suffering from the long-term impact of the virus.
The group is a beacon of hope for those struggling, with it offering a network of support, as well as gentle yoga, meditations and Zoom chats for those needing a friendly ear.
‘The group has been brilliant,’ Anna said. ‘There are so many people in for the long haul after suffering with the virus.
‘A positive head is so important in battling the condition.’
The outlook is looking much better than during the bleak moments of desperation when Anna thought she would never get better, but she knows there is still a long road ahead.
‘I was a bit cocky when I first became unwell, thinking it would all be fine and was just like the flu - but it is nothing like the flu,’ she said.
‘The doctors have been positive saying there is no long-lasting damage but it is a new illness and they are still learning so who knows.
‘I’ve been very ill and it will take a while to get over it. I still can’t work and vacuuming and putting the bedding on wipes me out for a day.
‘It’s a wicked, scary illness and you wonder whether you will get back to normal again. I hope I will do, but I know it will take time.’