Coping with long Covid after recovery


PETALING JAYA: While some Covid-19 patients do not experience severe health conditions after getting infected, others say symptoms persist even after they are found to be free of the virus.

Victor Goh, 29, is among those suffering with prolonged symptoms even after he recovered from Covid-19 after getting infected earlier this year.

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“After recovery, lethargy is definitely one thing I experienced, but perhaps what was more of a pain is insomnia. I can’t sleep well most nights and I can only fall asleep at 2am or 3am,” said the PhD holder in Applied Psychology.

Goh occasionally experienced shortness of breath and anxiety.

“It is a general anxiety that can come from anywhere. I can be watching TV and suddenly my heart is racing, or I can be trying to sleep, and my heart is racing.

“My smartwatch regularly shows my heartbeat at 100bpm (beats per minute) at times, even when I’m on the couch,” he said.

(Adults usually have a heart rate of 60-100bpm.)

“I’m a psychologist, so I can identify when I am having anxiety and how to calm myself and find out the cause of the anxiety.

“But these cases of anxiety appear out of nowhere and are normally hard to calm down,” he added.

Farahana Amira Ahmad Radzi, who was a Category 5 patient, or one with severe symptoms, still has difficulty walking long distances or going up the stairs.

“Even when I’m eating, I can feel tired. I can only hold a pen for a maximum of 10 minutes. When I go up the stairs, I will feel out of breath.

“The illness has affected my lungs and I can’t do too many activities in one day, not like how I used to previously,” said the 30-year-old, who works in customer service.

Although she was discharged from hospital in May, she still has to attend follow-up appointments.

“They have to check on my lungs and to check for any blood clots, and I am currently on blood thinners,” said Farahana Amira.

A 19-year-old student, who prefers to remain anonymous, said it took a month to recover her sense of smell after testing positive for the virus last year.

“Another thing I noticed was that my menstrual cycle was affected and the cramps are more intense and I have a heavier flow,” she said.

While menstrual cycle changes are not known to be a common symptom of post-Covid syndrome, there are some anecdotal reports of women experiencing such changes after contracting the disease.

Recently, a Health Ministry study revealed that about 66% of 1,004 Covid-19 patients of Category 4 and 5 suffer from post-Covid syndrome or “long Covid”.

Long Covid refers to prolonged symptoms which persist for more than 12 weeks from the start of the illness.

Respiratory physician Dr Helmy Haja Mydin said prolonged symptoms could fall into the subgroups of respiratory, mental health, cardiac, blood clots, and miscellaneous (fatigue, general weakness).

“More doctors are also seeing patients who are experiencing post-Covid syndrome,” he said.

General practitioner Dr Lee Chee Wan said long Covid syndrome is likely to be a huge problem in the future.

“It does not only affect a person’s lungs, but also their heart and brain. A lot of illnesses can follow even after one has been discharged from hospital, especially those who were in the intensive care unit.

“These symptoms can be prolonged for months – or even for a year,” he said.

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