Long covid pair climb back

Lancashire couple beat long Covid after a year

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Twelve months after first falling ill with Covid-19, a Lancashire film-making couple are finally back in work, able to return to hill walking and starting to live their lives again.

Caroline Eccles and David Pownall, both 41 from Waterfoot, had flu-like symptoms in March last year. Back then, there was no testing for Covid and patients were told to stay away from surgeries and hospitals, self-medicate, isolate and get better on their own.

But their illness didn’t disappear and they did not start to get better. Eccles, who used to top 10,000 steps a day, found herself struggling to walk up the stairs of their home. It soon became obvious they were suffering long-term symptoms, something which was only just being accepted by doctors as long Covid. Their experience was documented in a Big Issue North feature in August last year.

Looking to the future

This year, on their 20th anniversary of being a couple, they were delighted to be well enough to walk a favourite 11-mile route – from Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire to Simon’s Seat.

Eccles said: “I feel a million times better than I did when I spoke to Big Issue North in August and so much more positive. I feel more like me and people keep saying that I now look like me.

“When I first put my training shoes back on to start on a Couch-to-5k, I began crying and then I found myself pretty much crying all the time I was running. Last year we wondered if David would ever get back to running the fells. Although he can’t do so yet, he is getting stronger.

“It is not a linear illness. You don’t have long Covid one minute and then not have it the next. I am de-conditioned and need to build up my fitness. I also need to lose the weight I have gained, but I can now see a future and look back on most of my Covid problems as being in the past.”

Recently the couple, who run Huckberry Films, were commissioned to document the Burnley museum Towneley Hall for online visitors. Eccles could not walk and talk while climbing the stairs with her clients. But she hopes that will improve.

She said: “The funny thing about long Covid is – well, it is not really funny – but it comes and goes in waves. Long Covid sufferers have relapses and for many months we found ourselves to be suffering from exhaustion, shortness of breath, brain fog and low mood.

“Now it feels like we have both turned a corner and we are able to get back to doing the things that we love. We are getting more work coming in as things slowly return, and that is great.”

Helping others

Eccles is looking forward to enjoying a picnic up a big hill to celebrate her forty-second birthday in a few weeks – a far cry from her last birthday, which was spent at home with David and ended up in bed for a week recovering from the exertion.

Last year they made a film with Long Covid SOS and sufferers from around the UK, which was posted on YouTube to raise awareness of the condition that they were all struggling to get recognised.

The film, Message in a Bottle, was narrated by Eccles and featured photos of people who had struggled with Covid for months, holding up placards outlining their age, symptoms and how long they had been suffering.

Eccles said: “I was delighted when the director general of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, quoted part of our film in a talk about Covid. However there is still a lot of awareness that needs to be raised.

“As a patient adviser, I now share my experience as a member of the React research study that is looking into long Covid. It is a positive way of using my lived experience to help others.

“We have been given a real insight into what life is like being isolated with a long-term condition and, now the end is in sight for us, we hope that we may be able to use our skills to do something to help others in the future who are still living with long-term illnesses.”

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