Seriously ill Doncaster girl, 10, had to wait five months before her Long Covid diagnosis
Little Isabel Walton was just like any other ten-year-old girl, she loved dancing, gymastics and even Taekwondo, but that was before Long Covid hit five and half months ago – her official diagnosis only coming recently.
Isabel, who lives in Balby with mum and dad Catherine and Terry, and big brother Jack, aged 12, attends Wadworth Primary School but the illness has hit her so hard that she can currently only manage half an hour attendance each day.
A massive 80,000-plus children have been diagnosed with Long Covid in the UK, but this figure could be much higher as the symptoms vary from headaches and chest pains to stomach pains making it difficult to diagnose.
Mum Catherine explains how this all started.
"It was the 9th October that I started feeling like I’d got a cold, and now I feel extremely guilty because I must have brought it into the house despite being very careful washing my hands and sanitising.
"I had no temperature, no loss of taste or smell, no cough though.
"On October 14, Isabel and Terry started with the same cold-like symptoms, then Jack.
"After a couple of days I felt fine and then Terry completely lost his sense of taste and smell so had a test and it was positive, but because none of us had the same symptoms we couldn’t have a test.
"It took about two months before they started to feel better but Isabel never really picked up, she ws just ‘out of it’. She had a sore throat, stomach ache and then gradually over a couple of weeks she just got worse.”
The family love days out at Cannon Hall Farm so when the October half term came around they decided to visit, they were only there five minutes before Isabel felt so ill they had to return home.
From then on her stomach pains became much worse and she was nauseous, but never sick, and tiredness started to really hit, she couldn’t move around without becoming totally exhausted.
Catherine rang the GP who said it sounded like it was just post viral and Isabel would “get over it”, as did a Doncaster Royal Infimary doctor, and she was prescribed stomach medication.
Catherine continued: “We got to mid December and I was getting nowhere fast, I felt desperate and alone.”
Luckily, Isabel has her own consultant at Sheffield Children’s Hospital after she was disagnosed with coeliac disease at the beginning of 2020 so they got in touch and ,despite saying it was highly unlikely to be Long Covid, after Isabel started to struggle with her breathing and had palpitations she was sent for a chest xray where it was disovered she had lung damage.
“She was referred to the respiratory department,” explained Catherine, “they’ve been amazing. After five months we got the official diagnosis from the chronic fatigue team. No-one knows how long it will take for her to recover however, but it’s brilliant that we’re finally getting somewhere.
"I have felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall fighting for someone to believe it was Long Covid.
"I feel quite lucky because we wouldn’t be where we are now if it wasn’t for Isabel’s consultant. There is a Long Covid Children’s Group and so many of them in it haven’t got as far down the path as we have.”
She added: “She used to be so active. She had three dance classes a week, two gymnastics classes and one Takewondo class. She used to compete in dancing and gymastics.
"Now her stomach pain keeps her awake at night, so she never feels refreshed, she just lays on the sofa watching telly, although we’ve been encouraging her to do a bit of colouring to break up the monotony, she’s not up to much else. She can have palpitations just being sat there.
"We have ended up getting a wheelchair just so we can get her out of the house and into the fresh air.
"My husband has to carry her upstairs.”
After liasing with Isabel’s school she returned for the first time last week, Monday doing half a day, Tuesday going in for an hour but by Wednesday she was thoroughly exhausted so she is continuing on half hour days for the time being.
"It’s heartbreaking, I’ve had a real cry, she is in so much pain and I can’t do anything to stop it. She’s deeply tired but can’t sleep and it’s mentally draining for us but I feel guilty for saying that because at least we’re not unwell.”
The guilt doesn’t stop there either as Catherine, aged 46, works four days a week at home as a senior buyer for the NHS, and Terry, aged 42, works five days a week, also from home as a fleet controller, and it is time they wish they could be dedicating to Isabel and Jack.
"She misses playing on the trampoline with her brother, and of course this is all affecting him as well. We used to do so much together as a family. And he’s going to be celebrating his second lockdown birthday very soon.”
Catherine concluded: "Isabel is desperate to back to dancing and we’ve talked to her dance teacher and she may go back if only to catch up with her friends.
"And she wants to spend more time with her school friends, get a little more social time with them.
"It’s a been a long journey and we don’t know how much longer it will take, but we now have a glimmer of hope.”