Nearly a year after he first showed symptoms of coronavirus, opera singer Lee David Bowen is still struggling with the long-term effects of the virus.
Lee, 49, caught coronavirus at the beginning of February 2020 and now has Post-Covid Syndrome, or ‘Long Covid’ as it has been dubbed by sufferers.
In August, Caerphilly Observer spoke with Lee and published an article about his experiences of the condition.
Several months later, the father-of-three from Trethomas is still suffering with its effects – despite the virus long having left his body.
His first symptom – fatigue – began at the beginning of February last year. Around a month later, he developed a chesty cough, while the “punishing” fatigue worsened.
Lee also developed a persistent metallic-taste in the mouth and “brain fog”.
These symptoms left the tenor unable to carry out everyday tasks without tiring, which affected his ability to practice his singing and memorise lines.
Caerphilly Observer recently caught up with Lee to see how he was getting on.
“It’s challenging,” Lee said.
“I thought I was getting better but then it got worse.”
Lee, who was given an official diagnosis of Long Covid from his GP, is still struggling with fatigue, and has started having heart palpitations in recent months.
“Some days I feel really good, some days I feel really bad. You don’t really know where you’ll be with it day-to-day.
“I’m resilient, but sometimes I’m just too tired to even think about it.
“I’m lucky to have a good doctor and such a supportive family. Many others in my situation are on their own without support.”
He urged others to “think twice” before putting themselves at risk of catching coronavirus.
“I take Vitamin D every day, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I used to be a chef and I’ve always ate healthily. I don’t have any underlying health conditions either,” said Lee, as he warned of the indiscriminate nature of Long Covid.
While battling Long Covid, Lee has been at the forefront of a campaign to raise awareness of the condition. He has gone on to do interviews with BBC Wales and Sky News, among others, after Caerphilly Observer first published his story.
He is now joint-leader of Long Covid Wales – a group set up by Long Covid sufferers, which now has around 9,000 members.
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Professor Peter Saul, joint chair of the Royal College of GPs Wales, said: “GPs and their teams are at the forefront of responding to Long Covid, providing a continuity of care as patients recover.
“A lot has been learned in the last few months, but it is important that we keep studying the nature of Post-Covid Syndrome and provide care accordingly.”
Dr Saul said the Royal College of GPs Wales has been “seeking assurances from Welsh Government that there is a strategy in place to support Long Covid patients in all parts of Wales”.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are taking a personalised approach to meet the specific needs of each person with Post-Covid Syndrome because it has such a wide range of long-lasting difficulties.
“We are working on ways to better support people with Post-Covid Syndrome and will be setting out our national approach shortly to help health boards organise their response, taking into account latest research and local needs and circumstances.”
Lee’s story was brought up by Caerphilly’s Member of Parliament, Wayne David, in a remote House of Commons debate on Long Covid on Thursday (January 14).
But while Lee continues to battle the condition, some of the symptoms have eased in recent months.
He said: “I’m now able to read books, warm up my voice and memorise lines without tiring as much.”
Lee has his sights set firmly on a return to the stage as he looks to overcome his coronavirus nightmare – despite the uncertainty faced by the arts industry due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
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