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Fencing Athlete at Commonwealth of Australia discovers Covid’s long horror when seeking treatment abroad

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For the former Commonwealth Games athlete, the idea that exercise can do harm seems both ridiculous and emotional, but for Sian Webster, it’s a harsh reality when she struggles with Covid for a long time.

Ms. Webster, who represented Australia in fencing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, was infected with the virus in March 2020 – the first day of closure in London – and has been fighting for it ever since.

She moved to the United Kingdom about a month before finding work before earning a master’s degree, hoping to work in the human rights and non-governmental sectors.

In the early stages of Covid-19 Ms. Webster recalled feeling very tired for several weeks.

“It was hard for me to go up and down the stairs, and my chest felt like I hadn’t felt before,” she told NCA NewsWire.

“It was hard for me to breathe, even though I wasn’t coughing at the time.

“My taste has changed for a couple of days with some foods.”

Camera iconPreviously, Sian Webster participated in the Commonwealth Games. Supplied Credit: Supplied

Mrs. Webster, 26, thought her illness was mild, and in a couple of weeks she got a little better.

“I could go to grocery stores once a week, which meant walking for 40 minutes, and I could do a little jogging or similar exercises,” she said.

“But I never recovered. Over the next few months I twice tried to start building up my strength through exercise, but it led to relapses or accidents every time.

“Every time it happened, I got worse and felt new symptoms.”

Ms. Webster, a native of Perth, said she continued to wait for recovery, but that did not happen.

“I also felt a lot of fog in my brain or cognitive dysfunction at the time, so I actually forgot to do things like call a doctor,” she said.

Xiang Webster went to Germany for treatment.  Supplied
Camera iconXiang Webster went to Germany for treatment. Supplied Credit: Supplied

It wasn’t until late 2020 that she realized Covid had been ill for a long time, and returned to Australia.

Ms. Webster still suffers from about 30 minor and “very strange” symptoms, including severe fatigue, brain fog and difficulty breathing.

She also suffers from pericarditis, which is swelling and irritation of the tissues surrounding the heart, and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which affects blood flow.

“Because of fatigue, I can walk five to 10 minutes at a time,” she said.

“I have ailments after exercise, which means that exercise makes me worse.

“Each of the five times I crashed, I got worse, although between each failure I recover very slowly – so slow that it will take me about ten years or more to have a normal level of daily function if I continue to recover without failure.” .

Ms. Webster tried many different treatments – even steroids and controversial ivermectin – but nothing cured her.

Sian Webster realized that in 2020 she had a long Covid.  Supplied
Camera iconSian Webster realized that in 2020 she had a long Covid. Supplied Credit: Supplied

She is now receiving heparin extracorporeal LDL / fibrinogen treatment in Germany and has created a GoFundMe page to cover the costs.

“It’s still an experimental treatment, but it sounded promising, so I decided to go,” she said.

“It seems that the more time has passed since the patient’s illness, the less effective the treatment and the more damage the long covid inflicts on my body.”

Ms. Webster said she was faced with the inability to work for the rest of her life.

“While I don’t really expect to make a fence again, some improvements will change lives,” she said.

So far, the treatment seems to have helped a bit.

“My overall fatigue and fog in my brain have improved a bit and my breathing has gotten a lot better,” she said.

“A lot of people get worse in the first few sessions before they start to recover. I started to recover with about the sixth procedure.

“I’m still tied up at home and struggling with thoughts, but now I can cook most days – something I had a hard time doing once a week.”

Ms. Webster believes she will need a few more sessions and while she raises the necessary funds over the next few months, she will return to the UK to try hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Sian Webster doesn’t expect her to be able to return to fencing.  Supplied
Camera iconSian Webster doesn’t expect her to be able to return to fencing. Supplied Credit: Supplied

Molecular virologist Vinod Balasubramaniam of Monash University in Malaysia told NCA NewsWire that although Covid-19 is considered a disease that primarily affects the lungs, it can also damage many other organs including the heart, kidneys and brain.

“Organ damage can lead to health complications that remain after Covid-19 disease,” he said.

“In some people, long-term health effects can include long-term breathing problems, heart complications, chronic kidney damage, stroke and Guillain-Barré syndrome – a condition that causes temporary paralysis.

“Some adults and children experience multisystem inflammatory syndrome after they have undergone Covid-19. In this state, some organs and tissues become very inflamed.

Dr Balasubramaniam said it was unclear what caused the long Covid.

“One possibility is that the infection causes some people’s immune systems to overstrain, attacking not only the virus but also their own tissues,” he said.

“It can happen in people who have a very strong immune response.

“The virus itself, which enters and damages our cells, may explain some of the symptoms, such as brain fog, loss of smell and taste, while damage to blood vessels, in particular, can lead to heart, lung and brain problems.”

Sian Webster with her guide Pasang Sherpa on the trail of Everest Base Camp a few months before she contracted Covid-19.  Supplied
Camera iconSian Webster with her guide Pasang Sherpa on the trail of Everest Base Camp a few months before she contracted Covid-19. Supplied Credit: Supplied

Dr. Balasubramaniam said there were no known treatments for long covid.

“Treatment is very individual and depends on the underlying symptoms the patient is experiencing,” he said.

Dr Balasubramaniam said the study found that long-term covid with age became more likely and twice as common among women.

Royal College London has estimated that one to two per cent of people aged 20 who have had the virus will develop Covid for a long time, compared to five per cent of people aged 60.

The researchers also found that people with asthma were more likely to get Covid.

Ms. Webster urges doctors to familiarize themselves with the long-term Covid and for the government to make efforts for medical research.

“This is a huge burden for our economy and we deserve a better quality of life,” she said.

“They also need to reconsider their traditional definition of disability to include diseases such as prolonged covid and chronic fatigue so we can survive.”

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