A long way behind

Heike Motzek was fit as a fiddle before getting long Covid.

A WOMAN who believes she’s suffering from long Covid says the WA government has dropped the ball and isn’t ready for the inevitable emergence of the condition.

Heike Motzek (55) contracted Covid four weeks ago and is still struggling with severe breathlessness, which makes even talking a challenge.

Ms Motzek says she’s drawn a blank from the health department, which didn’t have a mechanism to record her condition, while the only clinic set up to examine Covid-related respiratory problems will only see people for two weeks after they’ve contracted the disease.

Ms Motzek was fully vaccinated and had no underlying health conditions; as an active triathlete she was in excellent physical condition before the virus hit.

She’s tried to stay active, and says the struggle to take a breath is pretty much the same whether she’s exercising or talking to someone.

“So this is like I’m exercising all day long, every day, and that’s very exhausting.

Doctors can’t predict who’ll be left with long Covid, but it’s defined as a continuation of mild to severe symptoms which persist after four weeks; how long it will last is also something of an unknown.

Common symptoms include fatigue, breathlessness and in some cases cognitive impairment. 

Ms Motzek said she went to her GP when her symptoms continued to deteriorate despite testing negative to Covid, but without any congestion to hear and her oxygen levels looking normal, her complaint was initially dismissed.

“The only reason I got a chest x-ray was for my mental health –so I could see there was nothing wrong – until they saw that my bronchial tubes were actually inflamed.”

Ms Motzek said she then contacted the respiratory clinic, but got little help there.

“They didn’t actually do anything other than give me a post-it note with a government website that has a section 

on patient resources for breathlessness; it says sip hot water and talk to your GP.

“That was it.”

After finding the health department didn’t have a mechanism for recording long Covid cases, she wrote to WA health minister Amber-Jade Sanderson but got no reply.

An email to premier Mark McGowan’s electoral office got a reply telling her it was only for his Mandurah constituency.

“We had more time to prepare, and we should have looked at other countries to prepare,” Ms Motzek said.

She believes part of the problem was the rush to return to “normal” despite her belief even now “this isn’t normal”.

Ms Motzek wants the government to follow the lead of other countries and establish specialist long Covid clinics and points out many provide financial assistance for long Covid sufferers.

Her employer has provided Covid-related sick leave, but with her family back in her homeland Germany, Ms Motzek’s worried about what will happen if she can’t return to work soon.

She says her experience should be a lesson to other Sandgropers who shouldn’t ignore preventative measures on the presumption Omicron was a little sniffle.

A spokesperson from the health department said Covid-19 affected people in different ways and there was no standard recovery period. 

“Those concerned are encouraged to visit their GP to discuss their symptoms and management,” they said.

“Given case numbers for Covid-19 are only just peaking in Western Australia, it is too early to determine the number of people affected by long Covid.

“Recent studies suggest vaccinated people who have received at least two doses of vaccine are significantly less likely to have symptoms associated with long Covid after being infected with SARS-CoV-2.”

by SKYE WILLOW-WITHERS 

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