Long COVID is an emerging public health concern in Australia. In the wake of the report from the Federal Government’s Inquiry into Long COVID and Repeated COVID Infections being released, we spoke to Scott Willis about his experiences. Scott is the National President of the Australian Physiotherapy Association and helps patients navigate their long COVID journeys daily. For him though, long COVID is personal.
In this blog post, we will explore long COVID from Scott’s perspective and learn about his journey, management strategies, and advice for those who may be experiencing similar symptoms.
But first…what is long COVID?
While many individuals may recover from COVID-19 without any long-term consequences, others may experience ongoing symptoms which can significantly impact their quality of life. Long COVID is the term used to describe these ongoing symptoms, which can impact many organs of the body and affect everyone differently. It is a chronic health condition that lasts at least three months in duration.
Scott’s long COVID journey
Scott contracted COVID-19 in April 2020 while being treated for another medical condition at a hospital in Tasmania. While his initial symptoms were mild, he experienced persistent fatigue and reduced tolerance for exercise over the next few months. This went by largely unnoticed until one day when swimming he lost all his strength and only managed to recover by holding on to the lane rope. It was at this point that he realised his symptoms may be a sign of long COVID.
After an initial period of hope his symptoms would spontaneously improve, Scott realised that management of his symptoms would need work.
“I think my frustrations led me to manage my symptoms. This is not a fitness issue, this is long COVID, and it is a chronic disease and I need to treat it like one so that I can function as near normal as possible. I had to learn to live with it to continue to work, to continue to enjoy my activities, to travel, to socialise, to do what I love doing. But it is still so frustrating and can be so inconsistent.”
Three years later, Scott’s main symptoms are fatigue and brain fog. It wasn’t an overnight process, but he now knows how to manage by listening to his body.
“I now know that I must not push my COVID threshold. I need to stay under it. I know if I want to go for a walk or swim, which I do regularly, then I can’t mow the lawn or do anything else physically. I can’t swim and walk on the same day, or I pay the price with fatigue and brain fog. I can’t exercise early in the morning of a workday because it may lead to fatigue and brain fog later in my workday. When I feel fatigue, I take rest and reduce my stimulation, rather than push through it. And I use relaxation techniques to improve the quality of my rest and better manage any fatigue. It’s an ongoing journey but I know what works for me so I can perform at the optimum level for my professional and patient-care commitments. I encourage anyone suffering from long COVID to seek specialist support to develop a plan that works for them.”
Scott’s advice to anyone recently diagnosed with Long COVID:
- Listen to your body and don’t push through fatigue
- Rest when you need
- Learn about your triggers and adapt to your symptoms
- See a specialist who has expertise in long COVID who can assist in coordinating your care with other medical practitioners as needed
- Don’t accept it when medical practitioners dismiss your symptoms.
Lung Foundation Australia also offer a peer support group for people living with Long COVID, for more information see our Covid Recovery Support Group.
Lung Foundation Australia have just released a comprehensive long COVID resource for people living with long COVID, for more information see here: https://lungfoundation.com.au/resources/understanding-long-covid/