Life with long COVID

What the long term effects of COVID can do to your work and social life.
18 October 2022

Interview with 

Nathalie MacDermott, King's College London


Green coronavirus particles around a strand of DNA.


Long Covid is essentially what it says on the tin: symptoms which persist long after a person is diagnosed with Covid-19. This can mean different things for different people, however. James Tytko spoke with clinical academic at King’s College London, Nathalie MacDermott, about her personal experience with the condition…

Natalie - Before I got Covid and before the pandemic, I was a very active person. I had relatively recently returned from living in Sierra Leone for a prolonged period of time where I'd been doing research into Ebola. And I guess in terms of my passions at that point, certainly career wise, I'm very passionate about doing disaster emergency response and medical response.

James - And Natalie when you first got Covid, what was that like? Was it a similar experience to maybe how many others describe it?

Natalie - So I first had Covid in about March of 2020, the end of March. And I guess, yes, it was very similar to a lot of people. It floored me for about a week. I had a fever for about five days and, and pretty much slept for most of that time. Lost my sense of taste and smell and then also became a little bit breathless in that second week. But I felt well enough to return to work after a couple of weeks. About a couple of months after my first infection with Covid, I believe I was infected again. I had a very similar illness to the first time, maybe slightly milder. My fever didn't go quite as high. But then I developed nerve pain in my feet during the first two weeks. And that then kind of progressed to having other neurological issues even once all of the sort of acute symptoms of COVID had settled down.

James - And what sort of impact does that neurological condition have on, on your active lifestyle, maybe on your career aspirations? Has it, has it been quite detrimental in that respect?

Natalie - Yes, it's certainly been quite difficult. I can't walk very far without crutches. With crutches, I can walk a little bit further, but my mobility is significantly limited. So it does make everyday life and any kind of travel just that bit more challenging. I'm someone who thinks that nothing should be impossible, irrelevant of the limitations we have. So I go to great lengths to overcome those barriers. I have yet to respond to a disaster overseas, but I reckon that if they just provide me with a quad bike, everything would be fine. That's kind of my plan for the future. But yes, it certainly made work very difficult. For quite a while, I didn't return to face to face clinical work just because I needed a lot of adaptations to be in place to be able to do that. And they weren't in place at that point, particularly because combined with the commute that I have to do, I'm just completely exhausted at the end of the day, which is kind of what happened this morning where I get home late and I just completely kind of pass out on the sofa and then wake up in the middle of the night and kind of then wake up the following morning with a migraine. It certainly has an impact on my life outside of work because I don't really do much outside of work. I'm part of a lively church and I go to church on Sundays and I try to get to groups in the middle of the week, maybe once. But other than that, it's very difficult for me to do much outside of work.


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