Long Covid sufferer Sarah MacDougall, one of the earliest intensive care survivors at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness when the pandemic began, is asking the public to show more compassion towards the frightened and vulnerable now that most Covid-19 restrictions are lifted
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One of the sickest Highland patients to survive Covid-19 has made a plea for more compassion to be shown towards vulnerable people now that restrictions are lifted.
Back in April 2020, Sarah MacDougall (44) became only the fourth person critically ill with the virus to be taken into intensive care at Raigmore Hospital.
As medical staff battled to save her life, the married care home cook was placed in an induced coma with oxygen on a life-support machine for 12 days.
Some 25 months on, Mrs MacDougall is still battling the highly debilitating effects of long Covid.
She believes more should be done to support victims and families in their daily struggles.
But she is also alarmed by what she perceives as a growing dismissiveness of how dangerous Covid actually is.
With laws becoming mere guidance on issues such as face mask-wearing, Mrs MacDougall feels there has been a level of disregard for the safety of vulnerable people in indoor spaces.
The Inverness woman is asking members of the public to give thought and show kindness to those who may be frightened of catching the virus in places like supermarkets.
“In reality, there are no restrictions now at all,” Mrs MacDougall said. “It annoys me because some people who have had it, and maybe had it twice, just seem to think it is something that comes and goes with little harm.
“I just think ‘phew, they’re lucky’ – thank goodness they haven’t been through what I and many others have experienced.
“We’ve all read reports of previously really fit and healthy people being badly affected long-term by Covid and there’s a misconception that only obese or unwell people are at risk. That’s clearly not the case.
“It is now 25 months since I got the virus and people who see me now, having last seen me before the pandemic, can’t believe the change they see for the worse.
“You can tell from people’s faces they are thinking ‘this virus is real – and it really is harmful’.
“People are still advised to wear masks in certain places like supermarkets, where the elderly or vulnerable often have to go, and not many are wearing them.
“I’d just ask people to have a bit of compassion as they don’t know whether that person they’re standing next to in the supermarket queue feels anxious or worried about catching the virus. They may be especially vulnerable to it.
“People are allowed to go out and about now even if they know they have Covid.
“It annoys me and, to be honest, it hurts me that actions and attitudes have changed so much.
“It feels like people like me have been forgotten about now.”
Mrs MacDougall was cared for by furloughed husband Harry and her parents after leaving hospital.
She has suffered severe fatigue and a variety of physical issues including diabetes brought on by Covid.
There is muscle weakness, loss of feeling and nerve damage, particularly in her right foot, which has left her needing mobility assistance.
As an NHS employee who fell ill with the virus she receives full pay and visits a support group in Dingwall, but knows through her own social media support group that others are not so fortunate.
“Going from full-time work with an active lifestyle, to no work and mobility difficulties is life-changing. You can’t plan anything really, day to day,” she stressed
“People can come up to you in town and say ‘you’re looking really well’, and they mean well, but they’re not seeing the reality of it.
“There’s a need for more family support, in my case for my parents and my husband who looked after me but have had nobody to turn to themselves.
“We’re two years down the line now and it’s awful that there isn’t more in terms of support for long Covid sufferers and their families.
“People think, long Covid, what’s that? They don’t realise just what a devastating effect it has on people’s lives.
“A lot of people are still struggling badly.”