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John’s Story

"Before I got Covid-19, I was in the gym five times a week. Now I can hardly get out of bed"

John McClelland is 52 and lives in Creetown, Galloway. A former barber, he had to give up work a decade ago because of a chronic lung condition. After contracting Covid-19 in 2022, he is now living with the symptoms of Long Covid and has been part of the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Long Covid Support Group.

John McClelland is no stranger to physical adversity. A barber to trade, he had to sell up his business in 2013 after developing a chronic lung condition.

When the treatment for the lung condition damaged his bones, John, 52, ended up having to use a wheelchair. Undeterred, he decided to take up disability sports, eventually representing Scotland at wheelchair curling.

But nothing he has endured before could have prepared John for the aftermath of Covid-19.

Before I got Covid-19, I was in the gym five times a week. Now I can hardly get out of bed

More than a year after he and his wife Susan first contracted the virus, both are still living with the symptoms of Long Covid. John in particularly has felt its debilitating effects severely, his left side left numb with pins and needles and a chronic fatigue that leaves him exhausted.

In fact, he’s so worn out by Long Covid that John, who lives in Creetown in Galloway, intends to give up the sport he has come to love and cherish.

He said: “Before I got Covid-19, I was in the gym five times a week. Now I can hardly get out of bed.

“It’s been more than a year and I still have feelings of numbness and pins and needles on the left side of my body. I’ve been waiting almost a year for a neurological referral. I still have no sense of taste or smell.

“My GP referred me for physio, but the physio said there was nothing more they could do. That seems to be the answer to everything. In this area, there is no follow-up for people like me – no clinic to be sent to, no help with managing Long Covid.

“I was eventually referred on to Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, and the Long Covid Support Group has been a help, if only to hear how other people are managing and what types of treatment they are trying.

“I am already living with a chronic health condition. I know how to pace myself and how to make sure I don’t overdo activities. But this is so much worse than anything I’ve ever experienced, and there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.”

John and Susan both contracted Covid-19 on their return from a trip to the US in early January 2022. He ended up testing positive for 11 days. Neither has been able to shake off the typical symptoms of Long Covid since.

He has also noted that each time he and Susan are in contact with anyone who has covid, their own symptoms seem to flare up again.

I was eventually referred on to Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, and the Long Covid Support Group has been a help

John says better information for sufferers and greater awareness among GPs about what help is available is essential. And he wants more financial help for those who now cannot work or need help at home.

He said: “There’s not enough information out there. I accept it’s a very new condition, but people need some guidance. I also appreciate that GPs are very busy – I’m lucky to have a very good relationship with mine – but so many people need help now and GPs are the obvious place to start.

“I know what it’s like to have to give up work. I spent 25 years building up my barber’s business. When I had to give up work, we lived on our savings, but they are all gone, and now we only have disability benefit to live on.

“A bit of financial support from the government for those who are now in that same place would be ideal. People need help. They need their symptoms to be taken seriously and they need to know they’re not in financial danger if they can’t work.

“There’s a lot of stigma around Long Covid. Somehow it seems more acceptable for someone like me who’s in a chair to be treated sympathetically. But often when I tell people I have Long Covid, they will say ‘oh I had covid and I’m fine’. Well, I’m not, and neither are a lot of other people.”

The fatigue that has plagued John for more than a year is now affecting his ability to play the sport he loves. Spending hours on the ice takes its toll on him physically and mentally, so he is reluctantly going to quit wheelchair curling.

John, who is chair of the Scottish Wheelchair Curling Association, said: “I’m still taking part, but I am wiped out for days afterwards. I was at a competition recently, and I needed two days in before it and I haven’t felt right since. Taking part in the sport I love now absolutely floors me, so I am going to have to give up.”

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