A student says his life is “ruined” after claiming long Covid left him permanently disabled, forcing him to give up on his dream of becoming a doctor.
Dylan Kelly, 25, studied chemistry at the University of Manchester and was a keen footballer, swimmer and gym goer before he caught Covid in February 2020. At the time he had just been accepted to study medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, with the goal of becoming a doctor once he graduated.
But after fighting off the coronavirus infection, Dylan continues to suffer from brain fog and fatigue and was diagnosed with long Covid three months later in May, followed by chronic fatigue syndrome in August 2020.
He said the chronic fatigue syndrome was caused by long Covid and the persistent brain fog has made it difficult for him to understand speech. He also suffers from a debilitating lack of energy, nerve pain and migraines.
As a result of his severe symptoms, Dylan has rejected his offer at university and is unable to work. He has also been forced to give up exercise completely as he is wheelchair bound.
The 25-year-old, from Bangor, Northern Ireland, said: “My disability has ruined my life. I had an offer for med school which I had to turn down. I don’t have the energy to have a social conversation without my brain fog becoming so bad it feels like I can’t understand English.
“I have even less energy than before. This has left me in a wheelchair and I spend almost all my time in bed; not how I envisioned my 20’s were going to be."
Dylan now has to live with his parents, Janet Force, and Gerard Kelly, both 57, as there are times when he is unable to even move around in bed. Janet, a civil servant, has been forced to change the departments and teams she works in so she can work from home part of the time and care for her son.
Dylan said: “Without my mum looking after me it would be impossible to live. I’ve been keeping myself occupied with Netflix, Tiktok and messaging my friends because that’s about all I can do.”
After visiting a neurologist in August last year, Dylan was told that the Covid infection may have attacked his nervous system which has caused his disability. Between 150,000 and 250,000 people in the UK have chronic fatigue syndrome and the disease has no known treatments.
Dylan said he now avoids thinking about the future and just focuses on getting through one day at a time as he grieves for his old life and learns to live with his disability.
He said: “I had to accept I would not become the doctor I had dreamed of being. Eventually, it got easier but it’s still not easy. I was in long Covid support groups online but I soon left them because people were posting recoveries when it seemed like I was just getting worse.
“My belief is the only way I’ll recover from this illness is if a treatment is found; without a treatment I’ll be forced to live the rest of my life in bed. I can’t exercise because if I do my symptoms get worse and my overall health suffers meaning I have even less energy than before.
“I was part of a football team, went to the gym three to four times a week and was very socially active. I have had friends come round to visit me but that exhausts me quickly so it never feels worth it.
“I can no longer plan and look forward to exciting things because my life is just stuck in this bed. However, if I miraculously woke up cured I’d definitely be reapplying to med school.”
Symptoms of long Covid to look for
There is no standard measure for long Covid, but most people should make a full recovery within 12 weeks after the infection. In cases where symptoms last longer than this, it is known as long Covid or post Covid-19 syndrome.
Long Covid can cause a variety of different symptoms which can change over time, but the most common problems include extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, loss of smell and muscle aches, according to the NHS. Other problems that can occur include any of the following:
- problems with memory and concentration - known as ‘brain fog’
- chest pain or tightness
- difficulty sleeping
- heart palpitations
- pins and needles
- joint pain
- depression and anxiety
- tinnitus, earaches
- feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
- a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
The time it takes to recover from Covid is different for each person, but anyone who has been experiencing symptoms for four weeks or more and is concerned is advised to contact their GP for advice.