‘Completely destroyed my life’: Long COVID patients warn against living with the virus

Millions will have to stay under stay-at-home orders in Sydney and surrounds.

Millions will have to stay under stay-at-home orders in Sydney and surrounds. Photo: AAP

Recovering COVID patients who are still suffering debilitating side effects are horrified at suggestions Australia should learn to live with the virus.

On Wednesday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard was the latest to suggest it might not be possible to eradicate the Delta strain from the Australian community.

“If the individuals that we need don’t hear [CHO Dr Kerry Chant’s] message and don’t respond, then at some point we’re going to move to a stage where we’re going to have to accept that the virus has a life which will continue in the community,” Mr Hazzard told reporters at a briefing to announce a lockdown extension.

It was a departure from the broader public health message favoured across Australia, though Mr Hazzard is certainly not alone in his views

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has recently warned against aiming for COVID-zero, saying “we have to learn to live with the virus” instead.

But in the eyes of Isabel Smith and Cassandra McMahon, who caught the virus from each other last year in Melbourne while wearing face masks, living with the virus is “absolutely not” a good idea.

“It’s not like the flu with aches and pains,” Ms Smith, 30, told The New Daily.

“It felt like my body was on fire at multiple layers – my bones, muscles and skin.

“There was a period of time where I literally could not move to pick up my phone or call for help. I was laying there thinking I was going to die.”

After spending the past 11 months enduring COVID-related chest pains, Ms Smith blasted the prospect of “living with the virus”.

“Maybe you’ll be fine, or maybe it’ll mess up your life and your employment,” she said.

Ms McMahon, also 30, told TND she was still receiving regular medical treatment after contracting COVID-19 in August.

“Some people just get a mild cold and shake it off, while others wind up in the ICU or pass away,” she said.

“Then there’s people like me, who are pretty fit and healthy and it’s completely destroyed my life.

“I’m getting better, but I still have a lot of hard days where I wake up in pain and I’m exhausted.”

Nearly one year on, Ms McMahon is still unable to return to full-time work as a nurse because she becomes too fatigued.

Ms Smith and Ms McMahon’s experiences with long COVID support a new study, released on Thursday, which shows recovering COVID patients are still struggling to sleep properly and exercise several months after contracting the virus.

Although most people who catch COVID get better within weeks of diagnosis, others aren’t so lucky.

The peer-reviewed study, conducted by the Scripps Research Translational Institute in the United States, found COVID patients took about a month on average to return to normal sleep and exercise patterns.

Those people are the lucky ones.

A major concern was the unusually long time taken for some COVID patients to return to a normal heart rate.

In general, a normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute.

After analysing the study’s results, the American researchers found some people who contracted COVID can experience an increased heart rate for 80 days before it goes back to normal.

It’s a feeling Ms Smith knows well, nearly a year after catching the virus.

“I’m OK now, other than the chest pains,” she said.

“I thought I was having a heart attack.”

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