The Sunday Post (Inverness)
A year on, I can’t leave the house but all doctors can do is tell me to take it easy
– Sufferer Barbara Melville
Barbara Melville discovered Long Covid had inflicted heart damage when she joined a Oxford University study to examine to examine the condition’s impact on organs. She got the virus in April and mild symptoms like coughs, flushes and sniffles built into chest pain and breathing difficulties, so bad she could not walk and was bed-bound. The science and literature lecturer and writer, who runs Long Covid Scotland, said: “My scan showed evidence of myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle. “There were also a few abnormalities in my blood work but my other organs were in much better shape. I sent the results to a private cardiologist and my echocardiogram showed good heart function.
“The only advice was to take it easy and avoid exercise.”
A year on she is still only able to walk around her house when previously, she had trained in martial arts and hill-walked. “Even walking or standing for a minute or two causes significant heart rate and breathlessness. I got no treatment but lifestyle advice. Others have had heart medication. I worry that those with heart issues aren’t being picked up, and it could be exacerbated by exercise. It’s important GPS, cardiologists and physiotherapists know about the emerging evidence.”
She is calling for an integrated service that diagnoses, treats, and supports recovery. She said: “Many support clinics, but whatever is developed needs to have co-ordinated, integrated services at the heart, informed by lived experience.”
The Oxford study – known as Coverscan and involving 200 patients – discovered damage to the pancreas, liver, heart and kidneys in Long Covid patients. Dr Rajarshi Banerjee, lead researcher, said: “It was done through quantitative MRI scans which allowed us to measure tissue characteristics and fibrosis in internal organs.
“It is vital to diagnose abnormalities, especially in patients who may be at risk of diseases like diabetes through a damaged pancreas. “Untreated diabetes can damage eyes, kidneys and other organs. Pancreas damage may also account for chronic exhaustion.”