Long Covid: Cramlington woman describes illness as 'something draining the life from you'

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Three years on from the first Covid lockdown, many people are still struggling with long-term complications from Covid-19.

It is known as long Covid, and Natalie Wright from Cramlington is one such person.

Although fit and healthy prior to catching the virus, the Northumberland County Council support worker was hospitalised by the Delta variant in September 2021.

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She said: “I wasn't actually too bad initially. I felt pretty grotty with Covid but it developed into pneumonia, which meant I needed supplementary oxygen.

Natalie found using an e-bike was less tiring than walking, helping to speed up her long Covid recovery.Natalie found using an e-bike was less tiring than walking, helping to speed up her long Covid recovery.
Natalie found using an e-bike was less tiring than walking, helping to speed up her long Covid recovery.

“I went into full respiratory failure, the pneumonia was that severe.

“What you get from that is you are inactive for about a month while you are in hospital.

“Your lungs are very badly damaged by the virus and the pneumonia so you get extremely fatigued and out of breath.”

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Natalie spent her 50th birthday exhausted in hospital, with simple activities like eating leaving her struggling for energy.

Difficultes continued after she was discharged. She said: “A few months out of hospital the slightest exercise, one flight of stairs climbed, has you not only very out of breath, but incredibly tired.

“I can only describe it as feeling like something is draining the life from you when you are hit by the fatigue, and early on in the recovery it is pretty much all the time.”

After collapsing from exhaustion days after her discharge and having to call an ambulance, Natalie moved in with her parents, who are in their late 70s.

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She said: “I struggled because I felt quite guilty with the age they were, but it was clear that I could not look after myself.

“I had a lot of support from my family and had friends who called me just to keep me going.

“It is quite emotional thinking about it today. Those were the darkest weeks, but at the same time it gave me hope that I would recover.”

Prior to getting ill Natalie was an active runner and hillwalker. She said: “I was able to get very fit early on in lockdown which ironically might have saved my life.

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“The doctors did say that being so fit and strong at the time is probably why I survived.”

Natalie eventually recovered enough to get down the stairs and into her parents’ garden. She slowly built up to walking short distances, but her recovery progressed quicker once she began using an e-bike, purchased through the council’s employee cycle scheme.

She said: “I still had issues standing for long periods of time. That was the biggest difficulty.

“I did the shopping, but I bought myself a mobility scooter to do it because I could only stand for 20 minutes at a time.

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“That is where the bike started to really help me to get out and about, because while sitting I could propel my legs a lot longer.

“I switched over to walking during the winter because it was quite an icy cold winter and the cold really did affect me.”

The council is encouraging others to take up cycling through The Big Northumberland Gear Change campaign.

Natalie now feels 95% recovered and is back climbing hills, which she never thought she would do again. She can comfortably climb Northumberlandia without feeling fatigued.

Natalie hopes to climb Simonside, near Rothbury, and Catbells, in Cumbria, this year, and aims to tackle the 899m Lake District mountain Great Gable, which she climbed before her illness, in 2024.