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'COVID Never Left Me': Stories of Those Battling Long COVID

'It was soul crushing', says Nishtha about her battle with long COVID

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Camera Person: Athar Rather

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

When I ask Nishtha how much of her pre-COVID self she's got back, she smiles, saying "that's such a depressing question."

"Less than 50 percent," she answers after giving it some thought.

Nishtha caught COVID-19 twice, and although its been almost a year, the aftermath of the infection continues to haunt her.

For people like Nishtha - a previously healthy woman in her mid-thirties, now faced with the challenges of long COVID - 'new normal' has meant more than just working from home and having a collection of face masks.

And for someone like Arun, who has battled chronic illnesses all her life, getting COVID has meant her worst fears coming true, even with a 'mild' variant like Omicron.

This is Nishtha and Arun's long COVID story.

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COVID and What Came After

'It was soul crushing', says Nishtha about her battle with long COVID

An athletic person, Nishtha says she was 'on top of the game', before COVID struck.

(Photo: Nishtha Gautum)

Speaking of her experience with COVID, Nishtha says she's had it twice (in the first wave and the second wave) but she never tested positive.

"It was quite surprising for me. I was exhausted all the time. I was getting bad bouts of migraine, which had never happened before."

Nishtha says that at the time, she thought it was just stress.

"I was like, okay, lets carry on as usual, but that's when I got the shock of my life that I could not carry on."
Nishtha Gautum, 36

In spite of not testing positive for COVID, COVID took its toll on Nishtha. Apart from severe fatigue, breathlessness and palpitations at the slightest of physical activities, Nishtha says she also experiences brain fog, and bouts of pain flare-ups.

For me, it (COVID) lasted a month and I still have symptoms," says Arun, a 29-year-old teacher based in Delhi.

Arun says that COVID has amplified her pre-existing pain, and left her allergic to most food and even her medicines.

'It was soul crushing', says Nishtha about her battle with long COVID

Hospital trips have become more frequent for Arun after COVID than they already were.

(Photo: Arun Dahiya)

"If I stand for a long time, or there is temperature disregulations going on, I pass out."
Arun Dahiya, 29

What Do We Know About Long COVID?

"Any symptom which persists beyond 4 weeks of COVID is called long COVID," says Dr Karatia.

"20 percent of our patients that we interviewed 6 months after their recovery, we found that they were still not back to their pre disease selves."
Dr Sushila Kataria, Internal Medicine Specialist, Medanta the Medicity
0

The baseline pulse rate of some patients going up after COVID is common, she says, adding, "this is called disautonomia. That means the autonomic function is not working very well."

Long COVID can be difficult to detect because of how variant its symptoms can be. It can also effect someone whose had asymptomatic COVID.

However, some common symptoms of long COVID that Dr Kataria lists are,

  • Symptoms related to cardiovascular system - heart attacks, strokes

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Hair fall

  • Reduced lung capacity

  • Altered smell

  • Slow healing

Pulmonary symptoms, she says, were mostly seen in patients who had severe illness.

'Crawling Back to Life'

"It was soul crushing, because my health was just in shambles."

"You feel let down by your body. You don't want to be very harsh on yourself, but you can't forget what you were and what you are."
Nishtha Gautum, 36

It's an isolating situation, adds Arun.

"If you are sick for a week, people would shower love over you and they would be caring towards you. But if you're constantly sick, they get tired of you."
Arun Dahiya, 29
'It was soul crushing', says Nishtha about her battle with long COVID

Arun takes it a day at a time.

(Photo:Arun Dahiya)

So, how then do they cope with their situations?

Nishtha says she's learnt to take things easier and go easier on herself. "I tell myself that it's okay if I'm unable to do the fifth thing on my to-do-list, at least I've done four."

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"There are things that are very important in life that we often ignore," she adds, alluding to her family and her health.

Arun, on the other hand, says being vocal about her health issues has helped her find a semblance of support.

"When you have a community support, it becomes easy to cope and keep going on. It works as a great motivation factor for me," she adds.

"There are several people who are living with the daily pain. If we keep hiding it, we would just be fighting alone."
Arun Dahiya, 26

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  COVID-19   COVID   long COVID 

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