The former Commonwealth Games athlete has revealed her agonizing fight against long Covid and has made a Desperate plea for help.
For a former Commonwealth Games athlete, the idea that exercise could cause harm seems both ridiculous and heartbreaking, but for Sian Webster, it is a Cruel reality as she Battles long Covid.
Ms Webster, who represented Australia in fencing at the Commonwealth Games in 2018, developed the virus in March 2020 – on the first day of Lockdown in London – and it has been an ongoing fight for her since then.
She had moved to the United Kingdom about one month earlier to find a job before starting her Masters degree, with the hope of working in the human rights and non-governmental sector.
During the initial stage of Covid-19, Ms Webster recalled she felt very fatigued for a couple of weeks.
“I had difficulty walking up and down stairs, and my chest felt off in a way I hadn’t felt before,” she told NCA NewsWire.
“I had some difficulty breathing, though I wasn’t coughing at that time.
“My taste changed for a couple of days with some types of food.”
Ms Webster, 26, considered her illness to be a mild and after a couple of weeks, she became slightly better.
“I could go grocery shopping once a week, which meant walking for 40 minutes, and I could do small amounts of jogging or similar exercises,” she said.
“But I never really recovered at all. Over the next few months I tried twice to start building up my strength through exercise, but that caused me to relapse or crash each time.
“Every time that happened, I became permanently worse and experienced new symptoms.”
Ms Webster, who is from Perth, said she never kept waiting to recover, but it never happened.
“I also experienced a lot of brain fog, or cognitive dysfunction, at the time, so I would actually forget to do things like call the doctor,” she said.
It was not until the end of 2020 she realized she had long Covid and she returned to Australia.
Ms Webster still suffers from about 30 minor and “very weird” symptoms, including extreme fatigue, brain fog and breathing difficulties.
She also suffers from pericarditis, which is the swelling and irritation of the tissue surrounding the heart, and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which affects blood flow.
“Because of fatigue, I can walk for about five to 10 minutes at a time,” she said.
“I have post-exertional malaise, which means that exercise makes me worse.
“Each of the five times I’ve crashed, I have become permanently Worse, though in between each crash I do recover extremely slowly – so slowly that it will take me about a decade or more to have a normal level of daily function if I continue to Recover without crashing. ”
Ms Webster has tried many different treatments – even steroids and the controversial Ivermectin – but nothing has cured her.
She is now getting heparin extracorporeal LDL / fibrinogen Precipitation aphaeresis treatment in Germany and has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs.
“It is still an experimental treatment, but it sounded promising, so I decided to go,” she said.
“It does seem that the longer it has been since the patient became sick, the less effective the treatment, and the more damage is done to my body by long Covid.”
Ms Webster said she faced being unable to work for the rest of her life.
“Though I don’t really expect to fence ever again, some improvement would be life changing,” she said.
So far, the treatment appears to have helped a little.
“My general fatigue and brain tooth has improved some, and my breathing has become a lot better,” she said.
“A lot of people become worse in the first few sessions before they start to get better. I started to get better from around the sixth treatment.
“I still housebound and struggle with thinking, however I am now able to cook my meals now days – something I struggled to do once a week before.”
Ms Webster believes she will need a few more sessions, and while she raises the funds she needs over the next few months, she will go back to the UK to try hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Molecular virologist Vinod Balasubramaniam, from Monash University in Malaysia, told NCA NewsWire that although Covid-19 was seen as a disease that primarily affected the lungs, it could also damage many other organs, including the heart, kidneys and brain.
“Organ damage may lead to health complications that linger after Covid-19 illness,” he said.
“In some people, lasting health effects may include long-term breathing problems, heart complications, chronic kidney impairment, stroke and Guillain-Barre syndrome – a condition that causes temporary paralysis.
“Some adults and children experience multi-system inflammatory syndrome after they have had Covid-19. In this condition, some organs and tissues become severely inflamed. ”
Dr. Balasubramaniam said it was still unclear what caused long Covid.
“One possibility is the infection makes some people’s immune systems go into overdrive, attacking not just the virus, but their own tissues,” they said.
“That can happen in people who have very strong immune responses.
“The virus itself getting into and damaging our cells might explain some symptoms like brain fog, and a loss of smell and taste, while damage to blood vessels in particular could lead to heart, lung and brain problems.”
Dr. Balasubramaniam said there were no known treatments for long Covid.
“Treatment is highly individualized and depends on the main symptoms a patient is experiencing,” they said.
Dr Balasubramaniam said research Suggested long Covid became increasingly likely with age and was twice as common among women.
King’s College London suggested one to two per cent of people aged in their 20s who had the virus would develop long in Covid, compared with five per cent of people aged in their 60s.
The researchers also found people with asthma were more likely to develop long Covid.
Ms Webster is calling on Doctors to get educated about long Covid and for the government to put effort into medical research.
“This is a huge burden on our economy and we deserve a better quality of life,” she said.
“They also need to review their traditional definition of disability to include illnesses like long covid and chronic fatigue, so that we can survive.”