A PSYCHIATRIC nurse who is still suffering from breathing problems and debilitating fatigue eight months after contracting Covid-19 has told how she thought she was going to "lose her mind".
Saskia Mulder, 40, from Magherafelt, has also experienced other "Long Covid" symptoms including a sinus infection, vertigo and migraines.
"I had an awful fear of death and I was crying like a child," she said.
"I live on my own and I woke up many nights wondering if I needed to call 999. Nobody could help me – and the health service had nothing for people in my position, although my GP has been really good."
She said she is exhausted by three o'clock every afternoon.
"I’m so scared of re-contracting the virus and I’m scared about the idea of going back to work as a nurse.”
Ms Mulder, pictured, said she had been frightened by the long Covid symptoms she had suffered for the past eight months.
"The scariest symptom has to probably be the inability to breathe - that quite often happens in the dead of night. For the past eight months I've had debilitating headaches and I felt like I was taking a stroke.
"Those have been the scariest times, when I've thought to myself: ‘is this it’?"
Ms Mulder credited NI Chest Heart & Stroke’s Covid 'Recovery Service' – the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland – for helping her to take control of her illness.
"The first time I took part in a Zoom meeting with others living with Covid, people were breaking down in tears because it was their first opportunity to get real support," she said.
The recovery service, which was set up in July, offers support to people struggling with breathing and sleeping problems, fatigue, anxiety and isolation long after they first contracted the virus.
Catherine Murnin, the charity’s director of care services, said it is a pilot which, like 90% of its services, is funded through public donations.
"Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has meant the demand on all our services is bigger than ever, while donations have fallen," she said.”
There is no medical definition of Long Covid or list of symptoms shared by all patients - two people with Long Covid can have very different experiences.
However, the most common feature is crippling fatigue.
Others symptoms include: breathlessness, a cough that won't go away, joint pain, muscle aches, hearing and eyesight problems, headaches, loss of smell and taste as well as damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys and gut.
Mental health problems have been reported including depression, anxiety and struggling to think clearly.