NI woman who battled virus with husband and mother can no longer manage daily tasks
A Co Down woman has told of her terror that she, her husband and mum would all die from Covid-19 as they battled the virus in hospital at the same time.
Lana Kinnier has since written her will as she continues to live under the shadow of the virus one year on.
Lana, a mum-of-two from Newtownards, has been unable to return to work, while simple tasks such as drying her hair, peeling vegetables and climbing the stairs, have become almost impossible.
She is one of tens of thousands of people in Northern Ireland believed to be living with long Covid.
And while she is relieved that she survived the original infection, 53-year-old Lana said she feels abandoned by the lack of NHS services available to post Covid-19 patients.
“It’s very frustrating, I really do feel very let down,” she said.
“I haven’t been able to go back to work.
“It’s all the simple things you would never think of — I have to use a walking stick and if I walk for even 10 minutes, I’m wiped out even into the next day.
“I have a chair in the shower, I can do the dusting but my son has to do the hoovering,” Lana explained.
“I can’t even dry my hair because I can’t hold my arms up that long.
“My husband is better than me, but he’s had to go back to work because one of us has to so we can pay the bills and after he’s been at work all day, he’s shattered and all he can manage is his dinner before he goes to bed,” she added..
“But he also has to help me because I’m exhausted and that makes me feel terrible.”
Retail manager Lana was diagnosed with Covid-19 this week one year ago, at the same time as her mum and husband of 30 years, Alan.
Initially Alan appeared to have fared worse than Lana, who was so unwell she was oblivious to her deteriorating condition.
“It was like I had a bad flu,” she said.
“Alan was having real trouble with his breathing but I didn’t even have a cough.
“When the paramedics came to take Alan to hospital, they came upstairs to check on me and said I was hanging in there, but I would need to be checked the next morning.
“My sister turned up at 7.30am and I just wanted her to leave because I was so tired and all I wanted to do was sleep but she said I looked dreadful and phoned the doctor.
“The next thing I knew I woke up and there was a paramedic and doctor standing in my room telling me I was going to hospital.
“That was the start of four weeks of an absolute nightmare,” she added.
Lana was admitted to the same ward where her mum and Alan had been admitted just the day before.
“I was able to wave at Alan as I went past his room,” said Lana.
“It was very scary having us all on the same ward at the same time and the thought that none of us would survive really hit me and I realised that if that happened, my two sons wouldn’t know what to do.
“We’ve got everything in order since then, we’ve written our wills because it really was a close call and it makes you think,” she said.
“At one stage the doctor asked me if I would be happy to go to ICU and whether I wanted them to try everything to help me.
“The thought of going to ICU terrified me because I thought if they put me under, I wouldn’t come around again but I told him I did.
“I know how lucky I am to be alive, but my life is so different now and I definitely think there should be more support out there for people with long Covid.”
Like Lana, John Cairns is also struggling to rebuild his life after a Covid-19 infection at the start of last year.
An operations manager for a distribution company, he has been forced to rely on charities and private treatment in a bid to relieve the crippling fatigue, breathlessness and pain that now dominates his life.
In November, the Department of Health launched one-stop multidisciplinary clinics to help people living with long Covid.
The clinics will refer patients on to other services where necessary and will give patients advice on how to manage the condition to aid recovery.
However, Lana and John, from Comber, both believe the service does not go far enough.
“I can’t be the same husband or dad that I was before and that’s really difficult to come to terms with,” said John.
“I used to have a busy job and I haven’t been able to go back, which is really hard because I’m only 43 and I’m not ready to give up on life.
“I have finally been assessed by the long Covid clinic and I have been referred for a condition management programme but I think that’s going to be very similar to what I’ve already done through Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke.
“I have also done a course with Aware NI to help with depression and, to be honest, I don’t know where I would be today without the charities.
“I haven’t even been offered a psychological assessment but I have found a counsellor myself to go to.
“It’s not the fault of the health service, I don’t think they know what to do with us, but I feel like we’ve been left to suffer in silence.
“I read about these trials that are going on but none of them are available here, there just doesn’t seem to be anything here,” he said.
“There needs to be more funding, more support and more research.
“A lot of the people I talk to with long Covid are like me, they want to work and contribute to society, and the economy is going to be affected more if we don’t help them properly.”