Is Long Covid really a new condition?
Or just a new name for a syndrome that has effected the thousands of ICU Survivors for years?
There is a huge amount in the press just now about a new condition that is developing as a result of COVID19. Long COVID seems to be the legacy left to patients who have contracted the COVID19 virus but the symptoms seem very very familiar. The picture above contains many different symptoms that you might find you have as a result of COVID19 but all of these symptoms are the same as what many post ICU Survivors deal with on a daily basis as well.
As someone who has had more than a few ICU experiences due to my lungs and no matter my fitness levels I was always plagued for months after spending even just a few days in ICU with fatigue, dizziness, muscle pain, joint ache, lethargy, inability to concentrate, breathlessness, nightmares, issues sleeping, brain fog to name just a few.
I think one of the main reasons that long COVID has attracted so much attention is because so many fit and healthy individuals have been hit so hard and are struggling to recover. But how different is long COVID from post ICU syndrome. I am not taking anything away from people who are suffering with the after effects of COVID and would never wish this on anyone but the symptoms they are experiencing a lot of them are related to post ICU syndrome.
One of the real positives of COVID is that it has brought attention to how badly ICU effects patients even when they are not there for a very long period of time. There has never been any sort of decent follow up for those who have been in ICU. Now that Long COVID is such an issue there has been a huge amount of interest in it and therefore funding available to help people post COVID ICU and also post ICU.
I have been going in and out of ICU’s for years and average a couple of ICU stays a year. I have never had any sort of dedicated post ICU followup which I believe I would have really benefitted from. It was only through my patient and public involvement research work that I found out about ICU Steps a support group for ICU survivors.
I think the biggest impacts on me and my ICU experience have been when I have been very young and there are certain admissions which stick in my head. One of the worst was when I was down south and had a CPAP hood on. I was on a lot of medication and very hypoxic but was convinced the CPAP hood was a bucket and my head was being pushed into the bucket trying to drown me. I felt like I was drowning due to the chest infection I had. I have never been able to speak to anyone about this experience but it is one that haunts me particularly as I was very young at the time and far from home. More recently there has been more physical scarring that mental which I wonder if it was picked up and treated seriously when I first raised the issue would I still be affected so badly. Would post ICU follow up have picked this up and given me the chance to speak about it….maybe. I may also be totally wrong and my disability would be just the same had it been picked up straight away.
The hope going forward now is that there will be support for all patients coming out of ICU as ICU wether it is for COVID, asthma, sepsis or trauma is just as terrifying and people need just as much support.
As devastating as COVID is just maybe there is a small positive to come out of it for ICU survivors going forward. There is now recognition of the mental and physical effects that ICU has on the patient, family and friends and what it is like to live with the constant effects.
Its not often you can find a positive out of COVID but here is one.
I hope to not need the services of ICU again in the future but knowing my lungs I am not holding my breath.