Long Covid sufferer Nicola Marsden helps shape new East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust research study into condition
A woman with Long Covid has helped clinicians in the region understand the condition by sharing her experiences.
Nicola Marsden became ill with Covid-19 in April 2020, before the long-term impact of the virus were understood.
Her experiences have since shaped a new research study by East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), enabling them to learn what it's like for people living with Long Covid.
After catching the virus, Nicola said she was unwell for months and had to take time out of her job as a PALS and complaints officer and rely on her daughter for care.
She said: “I couldn’t even sit up for about six months. I couldn’t walk, I lost my speech, I couldn’t write my name. I was exceptionally unwell.
“My 14-year-old daughter had to become my carer. She was cooking for me, cleaning and had to do home school herself. I just kept getting worse and worse, but I wasn’t dying.”
She was left with extreme exhaustion, cognitive issues, a heart condition and many other symptoms affecting her organs, and is still unwell to this day.
She added: “I’ve felt very desperate at times, and as I work for the Trust I knew there was a research department – so I emailed them, shared my situation and asked if I could use my experience to help them and others through my experience.”
Kate Harrall and colleage Rebecca Impson, both allied health professional (AHP) clinical academic research leads, received the email and worked with Nicola to create a questionnaire that could be sent to other Long Covid patients.
Kate said: “We wanted to do something to help patients in the same position as Nicola and it’s been a really positive step in pushing forward with our own research at the Trust.
“The study is a longitudinal observational study focusing on the experience of the participants with the condition. We’re asking them to share the impact of the condition at regular intervals so we can see how their condition changes over time, and if there are any links or similarities.
“Talking to people at different points over several months is also helping us get a deeper understanding of how it’s impacting them.”
Kate said the Research Team is working alongside clinical services and hoping the results of the study will help future care and treatment for patients.
She added: “It’s changed some of the ways in which we have continued with the research. We didn’t initially realise the extent to which people were suffering with anxiety and depression as a result of Long COVID.
"We sought the advice of the clinical psychology service who advised signposting our participants to wellbeing teams, crisis services, and to inform their GP to ensure they’ve had the support they need.”
Rebecca said: “Long Covid, as well as Covid, has had a huge impact on everyone and this research is important for understanding what that means for people and their lived experiences of the condition.
“We know – as Nicola has experienced – that recovery isn’t just a continuous upward journey, but is very up and down.
"Initially we thought the study would go on for a little over a year, but we’ve already extended it to collect data for three years after initial COVID infection, as it become apparent after our first contact with patients that the impact on people’s lives was continuing for much longer that it was initially predicted.
“We want to then embed this work into how we go on and care for patients.”
If you are living with Long COVID and would like to find out more about this research trial, contact R&D@esneft.nhs.uk.