‘My future has been cut off’: Major new study into long Covid

Sharon Hyland is living with long Covid complications, as a new study looks to identify how many are affected in Scotland.

Play icon STV News

By Sharon Frew and Kevin Scott

Sharon Hyland was a busy hairdresser just 18 months ago.

The 53-year-old from Bellshill had her own salon and another craft-making business. But then the pandemic struck.

Sharon had to close her shops during the first lockdown in March 2020.

Then, just before Christmas, she and her partner Lee both tested positive for Covid-19. Sharon’s condition was more severe and she needed intensive care.  

But that was just the start of her ordeal. Since leaving hospital in February, Sharon has struggled to regain her strength.

She has a range of symptoms her doctor attributes to long Covid including extreme fatigue, poor concentration, tremors in her right arm and leg, and a stammer.

Sharon told STV News that most days she is unable to get out of bed, which is having a huge impact on both her physical and mental health.  

She said: “I had what I classed as a normal life. I loved my work. Ever since I was at school, I wanted to be a hairdresser. I took pride in my work and now I can’t see what is in front of me but I’m here.

“I took Covid in December, we are now in May. It takes me all my time to walk to the car. Energy-wise, I don’t have any energy. My hair is falling out, it’s falling out in handfuls. I think because I’m stuck in this situation I feel as if my future has been cut off. “

Sharon has been unable to move back into her own home as it cannot be adapted for her health needs and she is now living with her partner’s mother and relying on her savings.

The hairdresser fears she will never be able to work again and feels her future “has been cut off”.  

She told her story as it was revealed a new study is to examine the long-term health of people who have had coronavirus.

The Covid in Scotland Study (CISS) will begin recruiting soon, funded by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office and led by the University of Glasgow.

Researchers hope to identify how many people in Scotland continue to be unwell after having the virus, known as long Covid, as well as what their symptoms are and how it affects their lives.

Sharon welcomes the study and says anything that helps others in the future is welcome. But she also feels there needs to be more help and aftercare for people now.

Professor Jill Pell, professor of public health at the University of Glasgow, will lead the study in collaboration with Public Health Scotland and the NHS in Scotland.

She said: “Most people recover quickly and completely after infection with Covid-19, but some people have reported a wide variety of long-term problems.

“It is crucial that we find out how many people have long-term problems, and what those problems are, so that we can set up systems to spot problems early and deal with them effectively.”

Using NHS health data records, all Scottish adults who have had a positive test – as well as a sample of people who tested negative for the disease – will be sent a text message inviting them to take part.

Text message people will receive asking if they want to participate in Covid in Scotland Study.E-mail
Text message people will receive asking if they want to participate in Covid in Scotland Study.

If they agree, individuals will be asked to use a specially designed app to answer questions about their health, before and after Covid-19, and whether the virus has had any lasting effects on their lives.

Participants who tested negative will be asked similar questions about their current and past health so researchers can compare answers with those who had the virus.

Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said: “We recognise the longer term impacts Covid-19 is having on the physical and mental wellbeing of people in Scotland.

“Government, clinicians, specialist healthcare professionals and third sector organisations are working hard to ensure people have access to the support they need for assessment, diagnosis, care and rehabilitation in a setting that is as close to their home as possible.

“This new study will be a valuable tool to help us learn more about the effects of what is still a relatively new illness and ensure people receive the best possible treatment and care.

“If you are contacted to take part in the study I would strongly encourage you to participate – your insight will be extremely valuable.”

More information is on the website.