‘We need more help’ – One of UK’s first Covid patients still suffering 9 months on
- Credit: JOANNE ROGERS
A Colchester mum who was one of the first people in the UK to contract Covid-19 is calling for financial support from the government as she continues to suffer more than nine months on.
Joanne Rogers, 51, said she “is in tears most days” as she continues to deal with the physical and mental effects of Long Covid and tries to get her life back on track.
The mother, who works as a cleaner in Colchester, has returned to work on reduced hours due to her decreased fitness levels.
Ms Rogers fell ill with what she mistook for the flu in late January, back when no cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in the UK.
After spending two weeks in bed, Ms Rogers was taken to hospital on February 15 with blue-lights after her partner Richard Shepherd called NHS 111 for advice.
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“I felt like a fraud,” said Ms Rogers. “I didn’t put two and two together, because I just thought I had the flu.”
Within 24 hours she was diagnosed with pneumonia at Colchester Hospital and was put into an induced coma in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where she stayed for 17 days.
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Ms Rogers said her hospital stay “was a bit of a blur” and doctors were working blindly to try and treat her.
Despite this she said the staff at Colchester Hospital were “incredible” throughout her care.
Her family was worried she wouldn’t make it, but she was released on March 9 and has been recovering at home ever since.
She was not tested for Covid-19 during her hospital stay, but an antibody test in June confirmed that she had had the virus. She shielded after returning home due to her bout of pneumonia, so could not have caught the disease after being admitted to ICU.
Now, more than nine months later, Ms Rogers continues to suffer from the effects of Long Covid. She experiences extreme fatigue, muscle soreness and anxiety on a daily basis and takes amitriptyline to help her sleep.
“It has a big impact on my day-to-day life,” said Ms Rogers. “I can tire easily from just doing simple chores at home.”
Her sick pay ended this month and she was turned down from claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIP), because Long Covid is not recognised as a disability.
She only manages to do two hours a day at work opposed to four and is struggling to get by.
She said: “There is no financial support for people like me who are suffering from Long Covid, and we have to make ends meet.
“My partner works full-time but I can’t rely on him to pay my bills and I’ve been told my symptoms could last a month for every day I was in intensive care, which is 17 months.
“I am in tears most days and my anxiety is really bad.”
Ms Rogers said the medical team at Colchester Hospital were fantastic, but more needs to be done financially to support those who are still struggling. She called for a new benefit to be created in place of PIP for anyone with long-term effects.
“I am trying to get back to how I used to be,” she said.
“But I am worried that as this is such a new virus, we don’t know the full side-effects yet.”
Ms Rogers said doctors told her she is the earliest known confirmed case of person-to-person transmission in the UK.
Until now the first person known to have contracted the virus in the UK – known as Patient 1 – was a 75-year-old woman from Surrey, identified via a test sample given on February 21.