More than 200 people have received treatment for Long Covid at a specialist clinic in Derry.
Long Covid is an umbrella term for a range of symptoms including fatigue, breathlessness and brain fog.
The Western Health and Social Care Trust set up a new, dedicated long Covid service at the Waterside Hospital in March last year.
More than 142 people were still waiting for an appointment there by the end of June, according to the Western Trust.
Demand has been so great at the facility in Gransha Park that the average waiting time to see a specialist is about four months.
The clinic is open to anyone over the age of 16 who has been referred to the clinic either by their GP or by a hospital consultant.
Most people who test positive for Covid-19 do not become severely ill and get better relatively quickly.
But some have long-term problems after recovering from the original infection – even if they were not very ill in the first place.
Long Covid is not fully understood, and there is no internationally-agreed definition – so estimates of how common it is, or what the main symptoms are, vary.
Guidance for UK health professionals refers to symptoms that continue for more than 12 weeks which cannot be explained by another cause.
According to the NHS, these can include:
shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness
problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
changes to taste and smell
But patient surveys suggest a range of other symptoms may also be present, including gut problems, insomnia and vision changes.
It is crucial to remember these symptoms can have other causes too.
Arlene McLaughlin, tested positive for Covid-19 in November 2021.
The 33-year-old has spoke about her health ahead of her appointment with an occupational therapist.
“My fatigue was very bad, I wouldn’t get through a day without having to sleep for at least an hour or two,” she told BBC Radio Foyle.
“I also had aches, like severe headaches and I struggled with social situations as my memory was really bad.
“I would forget names and get really frustrated.”
Ms McLaughlin said she worked full-time and was a manager of an actuarial team and taught dance before she tested positive for Covid-19.
“I am still struggling to accept that I had to slow down, I haven’t been able to go back full-time, and it’s very frustrating.”
Ms McLaughlin described small walks as being very challenging and has had to accept she cannot do anywhere near the level of activity she could do prior to testing positive.
Occupational therapist Erin McGonigle at the clinic said long Covid symptoms can vary from patient to patient.
“Long Covid is still a relatively new condition and research is very much ongoing,” Ms McGonigle said.
“We are trying to develop strategies and provide education on how they can manage the symptoms to get the best quality of life.
“When it comes to fatigue, pacing themselves and understanding that patients need to give themselves time to recover is really necessary.”Tags: