Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted and Scotland is returning to something approaching normality. But for those living with chest, heart and stroke conditions, the risks posed by the virus mean there’s no normality.
Now there is a wider risk. Long Covid is casting a long shadow over many lives.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show more than 59,000 Scots have been living with long-term symptoms of Covid-19 for longer than 12 months.
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My brain has been scrambled
Linda Hamlet is 49 and lives in Aberdeenshire with her husband and two sons.
She contracted Covid-19 in October 2021 and has been left with debilitating headaches, tinnitus and brain fog as a result of Long Covid.
Linda says: "I have a responsible and technical job in the oil industry. I’m a reasonably intelligent woman but a few weeks ago, I was changing the bed and I couldn’t for the life of me work out how the duvet cover went on.
"That’s how much my brain has been scrambled by Long Covid. I’m fortunate my employer has been understanding and supportive, but I’m worried about the future.
"Who’s going to take care of the Long Covid sufferers in the long term? We need answers, guidance and help now."
Linda isn't alone.
I can’t even walk to the kitchen
Greig Brown, 44, lives in Armadale, West Lothian. He contracted Covid-19 in January 2021 and has been hospitalised twice.
Once a keen runner and cyclist, joiner Greig now has Long Covid and suffers from severe breathing difficulties and memory loss.
He says: "I haven’t been able to work in more than a year. I am so breathless and exhausted. Just getting downstairs and settled on the couch wipes me out.
"I worry about my job. I used to walk miles every day round the hospital carrying tools and anything else I needed. But I can’t even walk to the kitchen without needing to sit down.
"I used to do 10k races and go out on my road bike all the time. Will I ever be able to do anything like that again? No one knows and it’s scary."
Working on support
At Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, we're working to help those affected by the condition through our Long Covid Support Service, jointly funded by the Scottish Government.
Our Advice Line nurses offer support to those living with some of the most common symptoms, such as breathlessness and fatigue. Our Long Covid peer support group has been overwhelmed by participants frustrated at the lack of long-term healthcare.
We need to do more for those who need it most. We are asking the Scottish Government to implement automatic integration of the referral system so GPs and health boards can refer patients directly to our Long Covid Support Service.
Jane-Claire Judson, Chief Executive of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, says: "Long Covid is causing lasting harm to thousands of people who desperately need support. The system needs to be joined up and it needs to be joined up soon."