Leeds long Covid sufferer urges people to 'get your vaccines and be careful'

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Before contracting Covid-19, Andrew Connolly says he was “fit as a fiddle”, juggling a busy job travelling up and down the country, looking after three children, renovating houses in his spare time and a keen mountain biker “blasting up and down without breaking a sweat”.

But now, as one of many hundreds across the city who have gone on to develop long Covid, the 49-year-old says “everyday tasks feel like a burden”.

Andrew caught Covid-19 in October last year and initially felt relieved not to have fallen too ill with it, especially as he had been shielding due to suffering from the long-term condition ulcerative colitis.

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But alarm bells began to ring when he failed to bounce back as he had seen others do.

Andrew Connolly, who has developed long Covid after being infected with the virus in October 2020. Picture: Steve RidingAndrew Connolly, who has developed long Covid after being infected with the virus in October 2020. Picture: Steve Riding
Andrew Connolly, who has developed long Covid after being infected with the virus in October 2020. Picture: Steve Riding
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“After isolating I went back to work and I lasted a day. I literally drove to a meeting, got told I looked awful, drove back home and went to bed and slept until 2pm the following afternoon. I felt so poorly.”

Andrew ended up being off work for the next six months and even now is on a phased return.

During that time, he has battled brain fogginess, severe fatigue, constant nausea at times, bouts of insomnia, body aches, back ache and has lost weight.

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He has had numerous trips to the doctors and hospital for X-rays, MRI and CT scans in the desperate search for answers.

“I just couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. After about four months or so, I just sat down and started crying. I’m not a depressive person - I’m always the gobby one, full of fun. I just started thinking: ‘Why am I not improving?’

But he said his life changed when he was put in touch with the Leeds Covid after-care team and met others who were in the same boat.

“I can’t tell you how much better I felt. You’re not alone. That sense of relief - that there is something wrong with you, that this virus is still in you somehow.”

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He added: “The long Covid team have been absolutely amazing. I can’t praise them enough. The dietitians, physios, occupational therapists. I would be utterly lost without them.”

Even now, Andrew, who splits his time between Chapel Allerton and Hartlepool for work, has to be careful not to overdo it and a simple gardening session this weekend wiped him out the next day.

“The doctors say to rest but life doesn’t work like that. I just want the children to see I’m fun again, that I can run about and ride a mountain bike.

“I worry when I do any activity. And that’s from the guy who’s been renovating houses for 28 years no problem. The joke was always that my form of relaxing was to knock down a wall. But all that’s stopped. Normal, everyday tasks feel like a burden.

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“It’s absolutely huge. It’s impacted us all including my wider family who have seen their brother, their uncle just not be full of life like he used to be. I just can’t do the things I used to do.”

He said he wanted to know how the Government plans to deal with long Covid.

“Lifting these restrictions, there might not be hospitalisations but long Covid will increase,” he said.

And his words of warning to others were: “Get your vaccines and just be careful.

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“I never thought this would happen to me. I never dreamed that after all this time, I would still be finding it difficult to carry on doing everyday tasks and feel so tired all the time. I don’t want to feel like this and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

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