Ex firefighter speaks out about living with long covid 'I feel like I'm walking through mud'
A former firefighter has spoken out about the struggle of living with long covid amid warnings people are ‘desperate’ for help.
Mike Smith has seen his life turned upside down since he got covid-19 early in the pandemic. The 58-year-old who runs a firm doing fire safety risk assessments after retiring in 2019 from the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service says he has never really got better. He said it feels like he’s ‘walking through mud’.
Formerly fit and a regular on the rugby pitch Mike says his 88-year-old Dad now has more energy than he does.
He has to use a machine to help ease breathing difficulties so he can sleep.
The father-of-two who lives with his wife Maureen near Edinburgh had to take two months off work this year. But he said he struggled to get help through health services, describing what’s offered as ‘woefully inadequate’.
"I feel like I’m walking through mud. I have to manage my time so carefully and do things like washing the windows or the garden one little bit at a time. It’s frustrating for not just me but my whole family.
“My dad is 88, and he has at times more energy than I have.
“I’m a big guy – I’m 6ft 4ins and I weigh 18 stones, but I keep myself fit. I used to play rugby and I still row regularly, but there’s a price to pay because the post-exercise
fatigue is so exhausting."
“I have had all the vaccinations, but each one made me ill. I had a huge reaction to the jags and my body felt inflamed all over again. That really affected my mental health
because I felt I was back to square one again.
“My joints are constantly sore and I have brain fog, which means doing my job is hard. I have a lot of detailed reports to write and it’s a challenge. I have asthma and I use a CPAP
machine at night. That helps with the brain fog because I’m sleeping better.
Mike had to take July and August off work this year. But he feels more hopeful since joining a Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS) support group and has also been using a
specialist service designed by the charity.
“I had been struggling through but simply couldn’t do it anymore. I should be able to do things, but I can’t. Life has become a daily struggle and some days are less of a struggle than others. That’s the best way to describe things.”
He added: “I have been speaking to my GP regularly and about a year ago, I got an appointment and explained I couldn’t go on like this. He referred me on to Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, and that has been such a help.
“I’m on the CHSS Long Covid Support Group, and I know from the discussions that I’m one of the lucky ones. I can still get out and about. One girl told us how she can’t even change her bed covers and sheets because she is so exhausted.”
“One good thing about the support group is there are some doctors on there who have Long Covid. Hopefully that means this condition will be taken more seriously by all levels of medical practitioners. Their understanding, empathy and efforts put into treating people will improve through having gone through or are going through their own symptoms of the virus, because at the moment what’s on offer is woefully inadequate.”
Alex Cole Hamilton, Edinburgh West MSP has signed an open letter urging the Scottish Government to roll out the digital service used by Mike, currently only available in
Edinburgh and Midlothian.
The letters states: “It is simply not acceptable for so little support to be available, or for it be so inconsistent across the country. We desperately need the Scottish Government to take more action and provide the services that people have been asking for for two years.
The service hailed as ‘groundbreaking’ allows GPs to refer patients directly to information and can request a call back from the Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland specialist Long Covid advice line. The charity says the system reduces pressure on GPs and improves patient care.
CHSS chief executive Jane-Claire Judson said: “Long Covid is a major public health issue and the Scottish Government needs to stop side-stepping the problem and instead face it
square on. Many people’s lives have been turned upside down, they are struggling to work and live normal lives. People are scared and desperately need help and advice.