covid:aid speaks to Dr Nathalie MacDermott about long Covid and her experiences

In our second episode of the Covid Matters podcast, Dr Nathalie MacDermott tells us her personal story of having contracted long Covid and what more needs to be done to support long Covid patients.

Dr Nathalie MacDermott was working her clinical job in paediatric infectious diseases and Immunology and bone marrow transplant when she first contracted Covid from a colleague.  Despite making a smooth recovery, she fell prey to Covid a second time while, ironically, looking after children with a post-Covid ailment – multi-system inflammatory syndrome.  This time, her recovery was plagued by an intense, neuropathic pain in her feet which remained for months, even as all her other symptoms abated after a few weeks.  It was only when she was pointed to a “Doctors with long Covid” group on Facebook that she realised that she was not the only one facing ongoing health problems after Covid.

Together with her Facebook community, in her attempts to raise awareness for dealing with long Covid, it became evident that there was a dearth of research on long Covid, with the pathology unknown and an ambiguous definition, due to the variation in terms of the duration after acute Covid and the 200 different symptoms that one could potentially experience.  As much as she found the Facebook group critically helpful, she suggested a need to amply recognise cases of long Covid by investigating hidden cases and underlying conditions, investing more in facilities and expertise to identify long Covid, and provide additional support for long Covid patients as they go back into their jobs.

Her experience of long Covid has led her to marry her academic focus with her lived experience, as she focuses her research on the effect of long Covid in the paediatric control population.

Dr Nathalie MacDermott sits on the expert advisory panel for covid:aid, and is a clinical doctor and academic researcher at Kings’ College London, specialising in paediatric infectious diseases in the NHS. She also has significant experience in medical response to disaster and epidemic situations in Africa and Asia.

You can listen to Covid Matters on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Acast, and wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts.

5 takeaway quotes from the episode

  1. On her experience of long Covid symptoms: “[In May 2020] we were still clinically under the impression that for younger people, COVID was a relatively mild illness, and you would come through it … but after a couple of weeks, all of the other symptoms settled, and I still had this quite intense pain in my feet.”

  2. On living with long Covid: “It just seems to be never ending at times, or random symptoms crop up, start to get a bit worse, and then a bit better… and there is certainly a lot of underlying organ dysfunction and damage in many people with long COVID.”

  3. On the need for investment in long Covid support: “A lot of people are struggling to access clinics that will properly investigate them because they don't necessarily have access to the expertise or the facilities to do that.  The 10 million pounds (allocated to the investment in long Covid clinics this year … doesn't go very far when you split it amongst every NHS Trust in the UK.” 

  4. On workplace support for long Covid patients: “It's really important for the government to recognise long COVID... as an occupational disease in frontline workers, where it was acquired in the workplace… we should be supporting and recognising our frontline workers who put themselves at risk to do the jobs that we needed them to do.”

  5. On the difficulty of defining long Covid: “My symptoms are relatively unique, actually, even amongst the group of people with long COVID… it's difficult to just put it into one nice sentence at the moment.”

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