A mountaineer who is still recovering from Covid-19 after seven months says he’s sometimes left with the “the horrible feeling that it’ll just never end”.

Jon, 58, says he is one of thousands of people in desperate need of effective treatments for so-called “long-haul Covid”.

The journalist, from New Mills, is calling for a “huge push” for more research into the condition and the development of rehabilitation centres to help those suffering.

Jon developed Covid-19 symptoms back in March but it still suffering

“Covid isn’t just a question of either dying at one extreme or having a mild, flu-like infection at the other, there are huge numbers of people like me living a sort of shadow life and wondering when and if they will ever have a normal life again,” he says.

“I believe that I will recover with time and rest, but it’s incredibly hard and many people are in a much worse state than I am.”

People who were previously infected with Covid-19 may suffer long term effects such as breathlessness, chronic fatigue, “brain fog”, anxiety and stress.

These symptoms have been loosely termed ‘long-haul Covid’, however researchers say the name may not be helpful if it means patients struggling with ongoing after-effects are being missed.

Academics believe ‘long Covid’ could in fact be four different syndromes rather than one illness.

Researchers from the National Institute for Health Research say there are four broad categories including post intensive care syndrome; post viral fatigue syndrome; permanent organ damage and long term Covid syndrome.

Some may suffer these simultaneously.

"I’ve always been super fit and super active, now I struggle to even recognise myself"

Jon - who asked the M.E.N not to use his last name - suspects his symptoms are mostly post-viral fatigue, but fears there is also residual damage to his nervous system.

He says: “I suspect some people fall into more than one category, you can have organ damage and post-viral fatigue.

“Anecdotally many people with long covid seem to have had quite mild initial infections, but an endless and sometimes seriously debilitating aftermath.”

Jon developed suspected Covid-19 in the middle of March and says he initially had a “screaming headache” and vomiting.

“I thought it was food poisoning. I also felt slightly ‘off’, had an occasional dry cough, my guts were odd for a week and there was an odd rash on my upper arms.

“There was no testing at that time, but two doctors have since clinically diagnosed me from symptoms.

“After about a week I developed a weird, high altitude-type breathing issue. I’d be fine sat down, but as soon as I moved around, I was gasping for air.

“I’ve done some high altitude mountaineering and it felt very similar to being at around 4,000 metres. It was quite a clean, dry experience for me, relatively mild.

Jon used to scale mountains before he fell ill with Covid-19

“Then after a couple of weeks, I could feel my immune system kick in.

“I got a headache, more productive cough, felt fuzzy and more conventionally ill. I thought that was the end of it.”

In fact this was just the beginning of a stream of nasty symptoms.

Jon suffered insomnia - sleeping just two hours a night - increased heart rate, low oxygen saturation, tingling in his fingers, chest pain, acid reflux, difficulty swallowing and breathing, brain fog and “weird random adrenaline rushes that weren’t brought on by anything other than being stood up”.

“My lowest point was finding myself in A&E with suspected stroke symptoms, which was terrifying,” he says.

After eleven weeks, Jon thought he was getting better and started doing some gentle walks and bike rides. But he was hit by “crushing” fatigue.

He says: “It’s been seven months now and my main remaining symptoms are fatigue.

“I used to happily do 100-mile bike rides, now I struggle to walk around a football pitch.”

Jon initially thought he had food poisoning

Jon still has mild brain fog, tingling in my fingers, tinnitus and says tests have shown sensory changes due to nerve inflammation and damage.

“I have really bad days and better days when I feel almost normal about the house as long as I don’t do too much and feel that I am recovering, albeit at a glacial pace,” he says.

“I’m fortunate in that my GP has been mostly very supportive, but a lot of long haulers find that without a positive test, they’re dismissed as suffering from ‘anxiety’ despite recent guidelines that clinical diagnosis should be enough.”

Academics have warned there will be a rise in the number of people suffering “debilitating” long-term after-effects of a Covid-19 infection.

Researchers from the National Institute for Health Research have reviewed the available evidence from people of all ages and backgrounds with ongoing Covid symptoms.

They found that some people are still suffering symptoms seven months after falling ill with the virus and those who had a mild illness at the start can have worse ongoing symptoms than patients who needed intensive care treatment.

They have also warned that it cannot be assumed that people who are at lower risk of severe illness and death from Covid-19 are also at low risk of ongoing Covid.

Jon has been unable to work since developing coronavirus and says, as a writer, he can’t manage sustained time at a computer.

He says: “The lack of any sort of definitive idea of what’s happening to me is incredibly frustrating and I feel like I’ve lost my life for the last seven months.

“I’ve always been super fit and super active, now I struggle to even recognise myself. I can get heavy legged just walking up the stairs or battered from doing too much washing up.

“I stay sane by doing everything I can to help with my recovery, but there are days when I wonder if I’ll ever recover.

“It’s been incredibly hard on my partner, she’s been brilliant, but is struggling to work full time and look after someone who now has quirky dietary needs, is constantly up and down both emotionally and physically. We’re both finding it really difficult and I’d be lost without her.”

Jon says there needs to be a huge push to find out the mechanisms behind long Covid  symptoms.

“There’s been so much understandable focus on preventing deaths, that everything else seems to have been put to one side,” he says.

“It’s only now that the full scale of long Covid is emerging.

“There are Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members all going through similar, but also very varied, experiences of this thing. Many of them cannot work, cannot care for their families and are struggling to recover. It’s incredibly sad and frustrating.”