Watch: Personal trainer, 23, opens up about living with long COVID
A personal trainer has revealed how enduring long COVID has been “the most traumatic time in his life”.
It is increasingly coming to light that not everyone who overcomes the coronavirus returns to a clean bill of health, with some facing complications after testing negative for the infection.
Dan Scoble, 23, from Oxford, developed severe chest pain and cold-like symptoms in early March.
With tests unavailable at the time, Scoble was never officially diagnosed with the coronavirus, however, doctors have agreed his symptoms fit the bill.
Read more: What is long COVID?
Over the past eight months, Scoble has been to hospital around 10 times with severe pain. He even endured a spontaneous lung puncture in September.
Too “wiped out” to work, Scoble has hired a carer to ensure he is eating three meals a day.
While no doctor can accurately gauge when Scoble may feel like himself again, the personal trainer is determined to stay positive, even meditating for two hours every day to help manage his symptoms.
Training up to six people a day, Scoble was cautious as soon as the coronavirus started hitting the headlines.
Despite his best efforts, Scoble caught the infection, which he immediately knew was no common cold.
“The most distinct [symptom] was discomfort in the chest, like something was in my chest, all on the left side,” he told Yahoo UK.
A week before the UK went into its first lockdown on 23 March, Scoble visited the Lake District.
“I went to do a walk and got about 150m [492ft], and just hit a wall of fatigue,” he said.
“I knew something serious was going on.”
Read more: How many people have long COVID in the UK?
Back in Oxford, Scoble – who lives with his father – quickly felt worse, but was determined to fight the infection at home.
Amid the pandemic, hospitals introduced strict rules on loved ones visiting patients.
“I didn’t want to die without being able to see my family,” said Scoble. “I wanted to be at home.
“Some days I couldn’t move. I was just getting worse and worse.”
Since March, Scoble has endured debilitating fatigue, tremors, brain fog and even skin sensitivity.
“I haven’t been able to go on a 1km [0.6 mile] walk,” he said.
“I haven’t had one day where I’ve cooked all my meals.
“I used to actively teach personal training for about six hours a day. I did resistance training four times a week. I went on walks most days. I ran once a week.”
Read more: Long COVID may be four different syndromes
Things took a turn for the worse when Scoble’s lung suddenly punctured.
Like the inner tube of a bicycle, damage to the lungs can trigger a tear. Leaking air then accumulates in the space between the lung and the chest wall. In severe cases, the organ can become squashed and collapse, leading to life-threatening complications.
“Luckily it healed on its own at home,” said Scoble.
Scoble was prescribed the painkiller codeine, but found it was only effective for a few days.
“The pain has been to the point where I can’t get out of bed,” he said.
Scoble has enrolled onto the clinical trial COVERSCAN. Run by the medical imaging firm Perspectum Diagnostics in Oxford, the trial aims to map “how COVID-19 [the disease caused by the coronavirus] impacts the health of multiple organs”.
Tests have so far suggested Scoble has no organ damage.
With the coronavirus only identified at the end of 2019, long COVID is somewhat of a mystery, with many doctors feeling in the dark about how best to treat the condition.
Read more: Long COVID patient 'not the person she was'
“What I have experienced have been the most traumatic times of my life,” said Scoble.
“Stuck in the unknown, illness with no answers, no obvious reasons why this is happening to me, not knowing when this will stop; the list continues.”
Unable to work, Scoble relies on income from a property he rents out.
“Finance is not much of an issue,” he said.
Long COVID has no official treatment guidelines, however, Scoble has learnt lifestyle habits that help him feel stronger.
“I’m doing a lot of meditation, one to two hours a day,” he said.
“Sugars, saturated fats and unnatural foods really send me off. If I have any treat or sugary food my heart rate will fly up. I feel tight and inflamed. I’ve got to have a diverse, fresh diet.”
Scoble aims to have around three different vegetables with lunch and dinner, as well as four fruits at breakfast.
A typical breakfast includes coconut yoghurt, chia seeds and pomegranate juice.
“Lunch would be fresh grass-fed meat with three different vegetables, sometimes a carb like lentils or rice,” said Scoble.
“I’m having fish every other day – salmon, sea bass.”
While Scoble is ensuring he eats as well as possible, he has only cut out coffee and alcohol.
“I’m having camomile tea sometimes in the evening and green tea,” he said.
“I haven’t had a drop of alcohol for over half a year. I used to love a G&T every week.”
Scoble fills his days by listening to an audiobook for up to an hour and a half.
“I can’t focus on [reading] a book,” he said. “I just get wiped out.”
Scoble also works hard to stay positive.
“I just control the controllables,” he said.
“You can’t dwell on what may happen in the future, you’ve got to live in the present and find the positives in the negatives.
“I’ve got two arms, two legs and a body, and I can see and hear.
“My goal is to get better. I’m confident I will, it’s just going to be a long journey from now.”
With the UK now in its second coronavirus wave, millions are contending with another lockdown.
Speaking to those who may break the restrictions, Scoble said: “This illness can effect anyone and everyone.
“People like myself, a 23-year-old personal trainer with no underlying issues, can have their life flipped in ways you really don’t want to experience.
“You might not die [with the coronavirus], but picture yourself living a life with a chronic disability not knowing what’s ahead of you.”
Watch: What is long COVID?