A Lambeth mum whose long Covid meant she couldn’t return to work for six months is thanking the south London treatment trial that got her back on her feet.
For Mercy Njoku, 55, the debilitating symptoms of Covid-19 did not disappear after the usual two weeks of infection.
After being released from hospital, the mother-of-two continued to feel rotten for months and was suffering from what is now known as long Covid.
She explained: “I couldn’t return to work for six months, I couldn’t walk, and I needed help to do basic things such as cooking or cleaning.
“I still suffer from fatigue and shortness of breath, but I am getting stronger every day, and I thank God for the fact I am still here for my family.”
Njoku joined the year-long HEAL-COVID trial at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in February 2022.
The trial, which is supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), aims to identify treatments for Covid-sufferers once they are released from hospital.
As part of the trial, Njoku took blood-thinning drug atorvastatin daily, as well as answering a series of questions about her recovery process each month.
For Njoku, who is still recovering from the virus, maintaining a positive attitude is crucial.
“Research gives us hope. I had regular monthly calls from the HEAL-COVID research team, where they checked in about my recovery,” she said.
“The research nurse, Sara, encouraged me and pushed me to keep going. Her support meant a lot to me, and she celebrated every small milestone and success.”
The HEAL-COVID trial was the first time Njoku took part in research directly, but she added she’d definitely do it again in the future to help others.
Professor Marlies Ostermann is a consultant in Nephrology and Critical Care at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Principal Investigator for the HEAL-COVID study.
She said: “I’m very pleased to hear that Mercy’s Covid-19 recovery is going well, and I feel proud that we have helped her. I hope the results of this trial will go on to deliver benefits for many more people.”
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows an estimated two million people in the UK had reported long Covid symptoms – those that continued for more than four weeks post infection – as of January 2023.
Moreover, 689,000 people affected by long Covid were still reporting symptoms at least two years after contracting the virus.
The prevalence of long Covid was greatest amongst 35-69 year-old women living in more deprived areas, as well as those with an activity-limited health condition or disability.
Researchers are still unsure why Covid has lasting impacts for some and not others.
Njoku’s message to others still suffering with long Covid is to hold out hope.
She said: “You can recover, stay positive and take things one step at a time!
“I’m feeling great and proud that I can do normal things like going out to the shops again.”