Dr Susannah Thompson, 41, lives in Northumberland with her husband and two young children. Since April 2020, her day-to-day life and health has been severely impacted by Long Covid.
Susannah is a GP and Medical Director of TyneHealth who used to love swimming in the sea, riding her scooter and losing herself on stage, but due to Long Covid, she is learning to make the best of her new way of life.
A passionate supporter of those with Long Covid, Susannah is championing the voice of the patient in shaping NHS plans and services around the condition. She is sharing her story to raise awareness and support fellow Long Covid sufferers.
“I am a scooter girl at heart. I used to ride a push scooter to school with my two young daughters. I was the fast, full of life mum. The one who would belt along at breakneck speed laughing.
I was also the joyous slightly different doctor who did home visits on two wheels. There was nothing better than the look on someone's face when you turn up on a scooter, fold it up and carry it into the house.
Now I’m a doctor on four wheels thanks to my wheelchair. The same person, just not quite the same as before. I’m often asked how do I stay positive? I ask myself what is most important and how can I still be me? One way is my yellow fluffy dice swinging on the back of my chair. I am still me inside, trying to get out and work out my place in this strange Covid world.
In April 2020 I was one of many NHS staff, who contracted Covid. The fatigue was debilitating. I was bed-bound for weeks. When I had the energy to get up, bouts of dizzy spells and palpitations would strike.
Nevertheless, I pushed through and gradually improved but I would have periods where I would be in bed for days, unable to eat. I managed to work intermittently short 3 hours shifts in the Covid hub, seeing Covid positive patients, where I could understand their chest pain and fatigue.
I thought that if I just kept going, did a little more each day I would get better, I’d been tired before, worked long shifts, weeks of nights, but this was different. In February 2021 severe fatigue, and excruciating pains in my shoulders and legs slowed me down. After nine months of persistent fatigue, pains and palpitations I deteriorated rapidly and couldn’t even hold a pen to sign my name.
A few months later I was diagnosed with Postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS), an abnormal increase in heart rate that occurs after sitting up or standing and appears to occur in some Long Covid cases.
PoTS means when I stand up my heart rate is often over 140 and I feel like my heart is going to explode out of my chest, the longer I stand still the worse it gets. I am not anxious or depressed, but standing feels to me like it triggers a fight or flight response, adrenaline pumping, I can turn on my doctor head and rationalise what is happening, but it is horrid.
After my diagnosis, I didn’t feel myself. I reached out for support from the thousands of doctors and nurses who, like me, have Long Covid. My sister is also living with Long Covid and has been a huge support.
No one really knows what it is but hearing everyone’s stories helps me feel less alone. I have rested now, paced and learnt to keep well within my energy envelope. But it has been really hard and frustrating, I have crashed so many times on this Long Covid rollercoaster. I do not want to give up a job I love. It is such a difficult balance.
People see me in an electric wheelchair and see it as a negative, but without it I would be unable to take my daughter to school, I would be trapped in the house, I would be living in fear of Long Covid, of standing or walking.
I have learnt to be kind to myself, to rest, to focus on what is important, and live my life as is it instead of watching it go by.
I hope my story helps others living with Long Covid feel less alone and inspires everyone across the North East to keep doing their bit. Yes, restrictions have eased but let's keep moving forward by choosing to look out for each other and remaining cautious. So Covid can’t take anyone else’s independence away.”