Long Covid in nurses: “I almost died from Corona”



Reportage

Status: 01/30/2022 09:48 a.m

Nurse Claudia Müller became infected with Corona in her lung clinic. After 20 years as a nurse, she is suddenly a patient herself – and cannot get rid of the disease.

By Klaas-Wilhelm Brandenburg, NDR

Claudia Müller is standing on a treadmill and is out of breath: “When I look down, I immediately get dizzy.” The treadmill is set to a slow speed, three and a half kilometers per hour.

“I used to start at seven and then run ten or twelve kilometers an hour,” Müller recalls of past visits to the gym. But that was before her corona disease.

Tired, listless, difficulty finding words: Claudia Müller during memory training

Build: NDR

“It was very close, but we made it”

On December 15, 2020, Müller’s corona test was positive. She was a nurse in a lung clinic, where she contracted the corona virus. Four days later she was so bad that her husband had to drive her to the hospital: “He took every red light and every speed camera with him. It was very close, but we made it.”

Müller went straight to the intensive care unit, the diagnosis: double pneumonia. “I almost died from Corona,” says Müller today.

Hardly any improvement

Two days before New Year’s Eve 2020 she was released from the hospital – but she is not healthy. She is bedridden for three months, after which she can hardly walk.

In June 2021 she will do rehabilitation on the Baltic Sea, but it will hardly bring her any improvement. For a little over three weeks she has been in her second rehab at the BG-Klinikum Hamburg, a clinic run by the professional associations – they are responsible when people have an accident while working in a non-governmental facility or become ill through work.

Ten therapies a day

In her rehab in Hamburg, Müller has ten therapy units a day for six weeks, from seven in the morning to five in the afternoon. Walking on the treadmill is part of sports therapy, the third item on Müller’s list of the day – and one of the most strenuous. But for her it is already a success that she can even go on the treadmill. So far, cycling was the maximum.

At first her circulation didn’t work either, and she quickly became dizzy. But gradually Müller increased his cycling time from four minutes at a time to thirteen. Nevertheless, it is of course “no comparison to before”: She did a lot of strength training, jogging, swimming, cycling. Today, after sports therapy, she says: “The legs feel like pudding.”

“1000 pins in the heart”

Less physical strength – that’s just one facet of Müller’s illness: “Some days I have the feeling that there’s a cola box on my chest.” Then she finds it difficult to breathe. Her doctor also diagnosed double heart failure, also known as cardiac insufficiency: “It feels like poking 1,000 pins in the heart – but sometimes like a stab with a dagger.”

After the lunch break, memory training is on Müller’s plan, because her brain has also suffered from Corona: she has trouble finding words, memory problems, is often tired, feels weak. Müller sits alone in a room full of computers, playing memory with nine cards on the screen. It’s quiet – if it were otherwise, she says, she would hardly be able to concentrate: “If two people are talking and I’m supposed to be talking to someone else in the same room, you can forget that.”

Post Covid: The Long Long Covid

Post Covid is the technical term for all these symptoms, a subtype of Long Covid. All complaints that persist for more than four weeks after a corona infection are referred to as long covid; in the case of post covid, the symptoms last for at least twelve weeks.

It has now been more than a year for Müller. “It was pretty difficult at the beginning to accept these restrictions,” remembers Müller. “And to assume that you’re sick and not well in a month. Or in two or three months.” Müller had no previous illnesses, she is just 38 years old and felt fit.

The BG Clinic in Hamburg offers special programs for post-Covid patients. “We have very, very many registrations, especially from nurses and doctors,” says Andreas Gonschorek. He is the chief physician of the clinic’s neuro center, responsible for the post-Covid offers and says quite frankly: “We cannot meet the need at the moment.”

Will thousands of nurses soon be missing?

Gonschorek estimates that around 5,000 people from the healthcare system in Germany need medical support for Long Covid. As a result, they are out for a while, which could further exacerbate the lack of care. In September, Christoph Reimertz, chief physician of the rehabilitation center at the BG Unfallklinik Frankfurt, even assumed that 15,000 people in Germany could soon be missing.

Müller wants to go back to nursing when she is healthy again – she started in the industry more than 20 years ago when she had just finished school. Before she fell ill, she worked with cancer patients, and she would love to do that again. But she is still skeptical as to whether she can withstand the stress of this job: “I can’t work in an old people’s home or on patients who need special care because I can’t physically do it.”

Nevertheless, she does not give up – because she has learned one thing in the past few months: “It always goes on, somehow. You just have to believe in it.”


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