Long Covid hope for Sheffield victims as scientists make discovery

They have suffered the terrible effects of long Covid.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 7:49 am

But now they believe they may have a new glimmer of hope, after scientists made a breakthrough in understanding the illness that turned the lives of Sheffield sufferers Michelle Hudson and Tom Stayte. And they also think people still need to be more aware of the danger of the longer form of the coronavirus.

This week, scientists said they have detected irregularities in the blood of long Covid patients that could lead to a test for the condition.

Imperial College London researchers found a pattern of rogue antibodies in the blood of people with the illness, which they hope could soon lead to a simple blood test.

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Michelle Hudson on police horse Treeton

Dr Elaine Maxwell, from the National Institute of Health Research, said early findings were “exciting”, but warned long Covid was a “complex condition”, saying it was important to continue to research other causal factors so all types of post-Covid syndrome could be diagnosed and treated.

South Yorkshire Police officer Michelle is delighted to see progress by scientists.

But now, the mounted officer wants to see them develop a treatment.

She was struck down with Covid last November, but has since seen a number of medical problems arise after she started suffering from long Covid, with new symptoms continuing to emerge.

Julie Whitaker at the Covid 19 max vaccination centre which has opened at the Sheffield Arena. Picture Scott Merrylees

Michelle, aged 42, has suffered breathing problems ever since and now uses several inhalers, and struggles to concentrate in the way she used to. She has now started to develop cramps in her hands and feet as well.

She said: “It gives you optimism that there may be some way to diagnose it – but now I want to know what they’re going to do to fix it. There is still no cure.”

After starting with a chesty cough and flu-like symptoms on October 30 last year, Michelle tested positive for Covid but has not been well since.

She endures breathlessness, fatigue and pain and has been prescribed two inhalers. She struggles to concentrate and sometimes needs to sleep during the day, even falling asleep in a support group meeting.

Students queue at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield to get their Covid vaccinations

She is on beta-blockers for a heart condition she did not have before Covid, and most recently has started to suffer painful cramping up of her hands and feet.

She had also lost 50 per cent of her hair, but that is growing back now.

“Some days, I just hit a wall,” she said. “It’s like my battery doesn’t last as long as it used to.”

Yet she says some people do not realise she is unwell.

“I have met people, and they tell me I look well,” she said. “I’ve even spoken to people who have told me that Covid doesn’t exist.

“It is important that work like this new development goes on. It also helps that it keeps it in the media so that people are aware of long Covid.

“I have started to do more though. I couldn’t brush my horse a few months ago. Now I can ride for 20 minutes, and that means a lot to me and is good for my mental health. But I might have to go to bed later in the day because of that.

“I really want to go back to work, because I’m one of those lucky people who loves their job. But everything I love doing has been taken away by Covid.”

Before Covid, Michelle would ride for as long as six hours. After work she would spend two hours in the gym.

But she praises her partner and her employer for their support.

Despite the way the virus has affected her health, Michelle believes the Government is right to end the lockdown restrictions next month.

“I think if people have had both injections and are being fairly careful, the country needs to get back to some sort of normality,” she said. “But people will need to take some personal responsibility.”

Tom Stayte, from Crookes, was one of the first to suffer long Covid.

The businessman contracted coronavirus in March 2020 and had a fever, fatigue and shortness of breath.

The 32-year-old fitness enthusiast, who has run five marathons, thought he had beaten the virus after three weeks and started running again.

But around a month later, those initial symptoms returned with a vengeance, along with a host of new ones including confusion and dizziness.

For three months, he barely had the strength to leave home and was unable to work, and although things are slowly improving he is far from being back to full health.

He is pleased to hear of the latest scientific discovery.

He said: “My first thought is that it’s possible to identify a biomarker, it would be a big relief for everyone suffering from this. One of the difficulties in the absence of a test is being believed completely about the nature of the illness. In the first instance, that will really help people.

“The second response is that hopefully that will allow treatments to be identified. They are talking about it being an auto-immune illness, and there are treatments for other autoimmune conditions.”

Tom says he is feeling better, 17 months on, but not 100 per cent. He is back at work and is able to go cycling and walking now. But he said he was no longer thinking of himself as a marathon runner.

He feels lifting all the restrictions next week is a step too far.

“Throughout this, the risk of long Covid has not really been part of the narrative,” he said. “I don’t think the general public are aware enough of the risk of getting it, and what happens if you do. There will be thousands of previously fit and well people who get it over the next few months

“It needs to be part of the debate.”

For more about long Covid, including the support available to those with the condition, visit: www.longcovidsos.org.