Lang Covid in Nurses: “I Almost Died of Corona”


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Status: 30/01/2022 09:48

Nurse Claudia Müller became infected with Corona in her lung clinic. After 20 years as a nurse, she is suddenly a patient herself – and can not get rid of the disease.

By Klaas-Wilhelm Brandenburg, NDR

Claudia Müller stands on a treadmill and is breathless: “When I look down, I immediately get dizzy.” The treadmill is set to a slow speed, three and a half kilometers per hour.

“I used to start at seven and then run ten or twelve kilometers an hour,” Müller recalls of previous visits to the gym. But that was before her corona disease.

Tired, lethargic, hard to find words: Claudia Müller during memory training

Image: NDR

“It was very close, but we managed it”

On December 15, 2020, Müller’s coronation test was positive. She was a nurse at a lung clinic where she contracted the corona virus. Four days later she was so ill that her husband had to drive her to the hospital: “He took every red light and every camera with him. It was very close, but we made it.”

Müller went directly to the intensive care unit, the diagnosis: double pneumonia. “I almost died of Corona,” Müller says today.

Hardly any improvement

Two days before New Year’s Eve 2020, she was discharged from the hospital – but she is not well. She is bedridden for three months, after which she can barely walk.

In June 2021, she will be on rehabilitation at the Baltic Sea, but that will hardly bring her any improvement. For just over three weeks she has been in her second rehabilitation at the BG-Klinikum Hamburg, a clinic run by the professional associations – they are responsible when people get into an accident while working at a non-governmental institution or get sick because of the work.

Ten treatments a day

At his rehabilitation in Hamburg, Müller has ten therapy units a day for six weeks, from seven in the morning to five in the afternoon. Walking on the treadmill is part of sports therapy, the third item on Müller’s list of the day – and one of the most strenuous. But for her, it is already a success that she can walk on the treadmill at all. So far, cycling was the maximum.

At first, her circulation did not work either, and she quickly became dizzy. But gradually Müller increased his cycling time from four minutes at a time to thirteen. Nevertheless, of course, it is “no comparison with before”: She practiced a lot of strength training, jogging, swimming, cycling. Today, after sports therapy, she says, “The legs feel like pudding.”

“1000 pins in the heart”

Less physical strength – it’s just a facet of Müller’s disease: “Some days I have the feeling that there is a cola box on my chest.” Then she finds it difficult to breathe. Her doctor also diagnosed double heart failure, also known as heart failure: “It feels like sticking 1,000 needles in the heart – but sometimes like a stab with a dagger.”

After the lunch break, memory training is on Müller’s level, because her brain also has a bit of Corona: she has difficulty finding words, memory problems, is often tired, feels weak. Müller sits alone in a room full of computers and plays memory with nine cards on the screen. There’s quiet – if it was different, she says, she would hardly be able to concentrate: “If two people are talking and I’m supposed to be talking to someone else in the same room, you can forget about it.”

Post Covid: The Long Long Covid

Post Covid is the technical term for all of these symptoms, a subtype of Long Covid. All complaints that persist for more than four weeks after a corona infection are termed long covid; in the case of post covid the symptoms last for at least twelve weeks.

It has now been more than a year for Müller. “It was quite difficult at first to accept these restrictions,” Müller recalls. “And to assume you’re sick and not well in a month. Or in two or three months.” Müller had no previous illnesses, she is just 38 years old and felt fit.

BG Clinic in Hamburg offers special programs for post-covid patients. “We have really, really many registrations, especially from nurses and doctors,” says Andreas Gonchorek. He is the chief physician at the clinic’s neurocenter, responsible for the post-covid services, and says quite frankly, “We can not meet the need at the moment.”

Will thousands of nurses be missing soon?

Gonchorek estimates that about 5,000 people from the health care system in Germany need medical support for Long Covid. As a result, they are out for a while, which can further aggravate the lack of care. In September, Christoph Reimertz, chief physician at the rehabilitation center at BG Unfallklinik Frankfurt, even assumed that 15,000 people in Germany could soon be missing.

Müller wants to return to nursing when she is healthy again – she started in the industry more than 20 years ago when she just finished school. Before she got sick, she worked with cancer patients, and she would love to do that again. But she is still skeptical about whether she can cope with the stress of this job: “I can not work in a nursing home or in patients who need special care because I can not cope physically.”

Still, she does not give up – for she has learned one thing over the past few months: “It always goes on somehow. You just have to believe it.”

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