Supporting dental colleagues with long-haul COVID symptoms
Rumana Husein explains what it was like to catch COVID, dealing with the long-tail and how she set up a Facebook group to support others.
Who would have thought that in 2020 we would be in the middle of a pandemic?
The SARS-CoV-2 virus came to the UK earlier in the year. It hit London in February/March with a vengeance.
I have been working as a dental hygienist and therapist in three specialist dental practices in and around London.
Life was busy but I kept to a healthy work-life balance practising yoga, working out in the gym and enjoying my art hobby.
On the evening of 26 March, the first day of ‘clapping for the NHS’, I suddenly developed a high fever, sore throat and cough.
Over the next two weeks the symptoms intensified and I developed myalgia, fatigue and shortness of breath.
There was no testing available at this point and face-to-face GP medical services was non-existent due to the lockdown. So I followed advice from NHS 111 to self-isolate with my family.
After two weeks it was looking like I might recover with just a bad bout of flu, but I was so wrong!
A week or so later, the symptoms returned and the shortness of breath and chest discomfort began.
There were times where I would wake up with muscular pain every night and then sleep for hours in the day.
I was finally seen at the COVID hub and diagnosed with ‘suspected COVID-19’ and told to rest and take painkillers.
COVID long hauler
Over the next few months I started developing additional symptoms, such as gastric problems and increasing chest pain/pressure and discomfort, tachycardia, neuropathy, issues with walking and even adrenaline rushes!
After managing to get access to my GP via telephone I was sent to A&E a number of times.
Here I had chest X-rays, ECGs and blood tests. But clinicians found nothing and gave the advice of rest and painkillers.
In a way, I was grateful that lockdown had occurred. I definitely would not have been able to work!
I used this time to become a ‘health detective’ as well as an NHS ‘check in and chat’ volunteer responder, which provided me with a focus.
Following this I was determined to find out how I could get appropriate help. Such limited knowledge in the medical world was available about the novel virus.
I contacted hospitals and even wrote to my MP about the lack of ongoing help and support. It became apparent that I was a ‘COVID long hauler’.
Following this I joined several social media support groups for COVID sufferers. This provided me with the lifeline I needed.
The experience drove me to improve my diet, going ‘caffeine free’ and reducing my sugar intake. This helped as I believe my symptoms would have been much worse.
Six months on, I still have some residual symptoms and I have had to ‘pace’ in order to build up my energy. Even walking upstairs and walking a mile would leave me tired and breathless.
I have now returned to work part-time and have breathing issues with the FFP3 masks. But I have now invested in a PAPR hood, which allows me to breathe comfortably!
My experience with COVID-19 has given me determination and focus to fight this illness.
I became aware of other dental hygienists and therapists who were in a similar position to me.
This led me to contacting Anne Powders through a friend after hearing about her long-haul symptoms with COVID-19.
We then approached the BSDHT (British Society of Dental Hygienists and Therapists) and have set up a support group on Facebook to help our colleagues affected.
The ‘COVID-19 Recovery Support Group for Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists’ aims to be a place where we can help and share information and advice around COVID-19.
If you have COVID-19 and/or would like to support the group, please do get in touch (see link below).
I am unsure when this merry-go-round of symptoms will end. But I hope the group is a source of help to others and I hope that sharing my experience will bring awareness that this debilitating virus is still present.
We must all take precautions to ensure the safety of our families, friends, patients and our local community.
Link to group: www.facebook.com/groups/627632481520890.