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A Magazine for Sheffield

“You're very lucky if you have it and escape unscathed”: Long Covid in Sheffield

Surviving Covid is only the first step, as an estimated 15,000 people in Sheffield develop the debilitating symptoms of Long Covid.

Covid testing
Annie Spratt

Many people have come to think of Covid as something they will likely survive. And while it's true that despite many thousands of deaths in the UK, most people will live to tell the tale when they get infected, it's not the case that they all come out of the disease without consequences. According to the ONS, 1.3 million Brits are reporting symptoms of Long Covid.

As 2% of the population, this suggests that of Sheffield’s 741,000 residents, almost 15,000 could have Long Covid. The Long Covid Hub in the city is helping to refer people who are experiencing long-term symptoms after having Covid to the specialists they need.

The symptoms of Long Covid vary, with around half of those affected reporting fatigue, one third shortness of breath, and others an ongoing loss of taste and smell, memory and concentration problems and pain. Women are most likely to be affected.

Claire Goodwin contracted Covid before the first lockdown. Although testing was only available to certain groups at that stage, her GP diagnosed her based on her symptoms of a cough and breathlessness. After a few weeks, she was beginning to feel better so, as a keen runner, got back out onto the streets to continue training for the Sheffield Half Marathon.

Claire Goodwin post-running race
Claire Goodwin

Finding it incredibly difficult, Claire gave up after a run that was so hard that she burst into tears.

I thought, ‘Oh my god, what's going on? What's wrong? Why am I crying?’ And I realise now, I was just exhausted, absolutely exhausted.

I got home and I couldn't bend over to take my shoes off. And I couldn't get up the stairs. I just sat on the bottom step of the stairs. For ages. It was just way too much.

Two or three months after her initial Covid infection, Claire was overwhelmed with a myriad of symptoms including a temperature and hallucinations.

I got really worried because then really strange things started to happen. I woke up one morning, I had blisters on my hands. […] And then after that my heart rate started to go really, really high. And I got much more breathlessness, which had kind of gone away and came back.

I have a heart rate monitor from when I was running. [...] I just stood up and my heart rate would shoot up to 170 beats per minute [...] All I could equate it to was when I had run at my hardest, and I was really pushing myself for a prolonged period, my heart rate didn't go that high. So I knew that something wasn't right.

Exhaustion is a key symptom for Claire, along with pain, and combined they affect her mobility so she now walks with a stick or uses a wheelchair. But as well as the physical symptoms, Claire is mourning the life she used to have.

I'm devastated that I can't run. And I realise how kind of spoiled that sounds, but it's just, my life before was, I was running a lot, I was getting out and about, quite active, walking the dog, that kind of thing. And I can't do any of that. So a lot of my social circle was around my running friends. I see them very rarely now.

Claire Goodwin, in a yellow coat and in a wheelchair, with friends
Claire Goodwin

Her friends have been supportive but she has felt challenged at times by medical professionals, who quiz her on why she uses mobility aids or dismiss her if tests do not highlight anything new. “With the doctors and the medical professionals, I think they like things that tick boxes, don't they? And definites.”

She has taken to showing clinicians photographs of herself before she became ill, to highlight the difference between how she was then and how she is now.

The Sheffield ME Clinic is somewhere that Claire credits as providing invaluable support as they really understand the condition, which is rare. Accessing support can be tricky. Claire reports that services are overwhelmed and mostly run with short-term funding.

I know from speaking to other people in Sheffield that there's a massive waiting list for the Long Covid Hub. And it is just a hub, it's not like a clinic - they refer you on to other people. And then the people that they refer you to have a long waiting list as well.

Healthwatch Sheffield, a local independent organisation that works to involve people in how health and care services are designed and run, told Now Then:

Very early on in the pandemic, the health service recognised the need to provide support for people living with the ongoing impact of Covid. The Sheffield Long Covid Hub was set up rapidly to bring together expertise and help people access the support that’s right for them.

We know that many people have benefitted from the hub and found it helpful. We know also that there are many people out there living with Long Covid who haven’t had the support they need - for a range of different reasons.

As somebody with Long Covid, Claire Goodwin wants people to take more care if they are infected with Covid. She urges them not to overdo it.

Pushing through is the worst thing that you can do, especially if you are used to being active and you can brush off a cold […] Just be aware that these kinds of things can happen and it is disabling.

I think that's one of the difficulties in getting the message out of how dangerous Long Covid is. Because people just think, ‘Oh, I'll get over Covid, It's just a heavy cold, or it's a bit of a chest infection’. And it's absolutely not that at all. Nobody really knows what it's doing to their body.

Learn more

Feedback about experiences of Long Covid helps Healthwatch work with services to plan what provision should look like in the future. You can fill in their online form, email on or phone 0114 2536688.

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