An opera singer has described his ongoing coronavirus “nightmare” – six months after first showing symptoms.
Lee David Bowen, 49, developed symptoms of the virus at the beginning of February, and is still living with the long-term effects of Covid-19.
Lee, who is a tenor, has what’s become known as ‘Long Covid’ – where symptoms persist long after the virus has left the body.
Lee, from Trethomas, said: “I had my first symptoms on February 2. I had really bad fatigue.”
However, the father-of-three didn’t suspect that his symptoms could be Covid-19, with only two confirmed cases in the UK at the time.
Instead, he naturally assumed he had come down with a cold or the flu.
He said: “I started feeling really tired and chesty in March and the family came down with it too. My daughter caught it and my wife, Rhian, had to self-isolate.”
As a tenor, Lee regularly spent time in London before showing symptoms of the virus.
Lee, who has been an opera singer since he was 30, has performed in shows such as The Phantom of the Opera and has performed with the Welsh National Opera and English National Opera.
Before going into performing, he worked as a professional chef.
“I had a few days last week where I thought I was over it. It feels like you’re getting better, but then the symptoms come back. It’s crafty,” he said.
“My singing voice is in good shape thankfully, but I’m shattered after I practise.”
The symptoms Lee has experienced the most since catching the virus have been “punishing fatigue”, a persistent metallic-taste in the mouth and “brain fog”.
“My mouth tastes like I’ve sucked a bag of two-pence pieces. I’m eating spicier foods to mask the bitter taste. It’s bizarre.
“Everyday tasks are exhausting – such as coming out of the shower or making breakfast.
“It’s been going on for six months now. It’s frustrating because I can’t do anything without tiring.”
Lee’s doctor diagnosed him with post-viral fatigue, but as little is known about the long-term effects of the virus at this stage, Lee described it as “unknown territory”.
He added: “I’m lucky to have strong family and friends around me. Rhian has been amazing.
“It’s been a challenge for the family because I’m too tired to help with cooking and things like that. I’m too tired to do anything – It’s hard to get out of bed.”
But despite the uncertainty, Lee is still looking forward to a return to the stage.
He said: “I have a show in London on January 23 – Heroic Voices – which I’m aiming to perform at.
“The arts need a date on when to move forward. We don’t know when we’re going back to work.
“As a freelancer, there’s no support. It’s a strange situation. I’m quite resilient, but a lot of my friends in the arts are struggling with the lack of certainty at the moment.”
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In recent months, numerous Facebook groups and other social media pages have been set up by people experiencing long-term symptoms of Covid-19.
Professor Peter Saul, joint chair of the Royal College of GPs Wales, said: “As clinicians we are learning more about the Covid-19 virus each day.
“We’re getting better at recognising the different presentations of the condition such as the loss of smell, rashes, gastrointestinal and neurological effects.
“It is also clear that we are seeing a more prolonged illness in around one in ten people who experience continuing symptoms for weeks after the initial illness.”
Professor Saul said the long-term symptoms occur because “the virus sets up an inflammatory response within the body”.
He added: “This can vary in severity and duration but in some can be chronic and relapsing. We’re still working out the best ways of managing such individuals, but it is worthwhile for victims to contact their GP.”
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