AN award-winning York teacher told by her GP she was the worst long Covid patient they had ever seen is preparing to return to the classroom and wants more NHS support and treatments for patients.
Shona Jagger, 43, a PE teacher at Fulford School, became a shadow of herself as long Covid ravaged her health.
Breathlessness, brain fog, chronic fatigue, pins and needles, pain, digestive problems, insomnia and tinnitus are just some of the symptoms she has been left battling daily since the end of 2021 - and for which she takes a range of daily medicines.
Her breathing difficulties affected her speech and she has had to learn to talk again.
Miraculously, Shona returned to the job she loved last September and is preparing to go back again this week, although she admits every day is a battle.
She said: "I used to be fit and healthy. I played county hockey, taught PE and played five-a-side football with the men at school."
When she was first ill, she struggled to move from room to room in the house. But through determination, rehabilitation workshops, and her medications, she is now able to cycle the short distance to work each day and walk her dogs Jet and Paddy for up to half an hour at a time.
But all the while, she is battling fatigue and faces the risk that her legs may "give up" and she will need to sit or lie down.
She said: "You just have no energy. It is like when your phone runs out of charge. You physically cannot pick up your legs and arms and your brain doesn't work properly."
She added: "The hardest part is: 'why me?' But I can't just sit around asking that."
She said getting back to the job she loved would not have been possible without the support of her husband Joe and the staff and pupils of Fulford School, who she said have been "fantastic".
Shona made the headlines in 2015 along with other Fulford School staff who helped save the life of a pupil who had collapsed. Shona and her colleagues won the Teacher of the Year award in The Press's Community Pride awards afterwards.
As she prepares to return to Fulford for the new school year she is determined to keep going.
She said: "Everything is about being back at work.
"I have had to adapt how I do my lessons. I sit down at break times. I have learned to send emails rather than go find someone to talk to them face to face."
The same adaptations apply at home.
"At home, if I wash my hair I have to sit on a stool in the shower. If I am making tea I sit down at the breakfast bar to do it, or take it in stages."
Shona said she has had a lot of support along the way - from her GP, a long Covid clinic in York, as well as through the Nuffield, where she took part in two trials. The first trial was for physical rehabilitation which gave her basic exercises to do at home to improve her mobility and balance. The second was for CBD oil which she said helped with the pain in her legs and improved her sleep.
The toll of long Covid affected her mental health too and Shona benefited from the IAPT service in York, which offers psychological treatments for stress, anxiety and depression. People can self refer into this service or access it via their GP.
Shona said: "They did behaviour activation therapy with me - it is brilliant for anyone suffering with their mental health. It works by setting little goals, from mastering easy skills like making a cup of tea, to harder ones like riding a bike or walking the dog."
"I have had very low moments but Joe, my family and school have all been fantastic."
And she has this advice for other people suffering with long Covid. "You can't wait around for the NHS so you need to set yourself little goals.
"Some nights I sit on the sofa and I can't move my legs, but I am not going to let this beat me."
She said long Covid needed to be recognised as an illness in its own right and more needs to be done to diagnose patients correctly and offer treatments.