Covid leaves woman unable to walk as doctors study functional neurological disorder

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A fit and healthy mum’s life has been ‘turned upside down’ after she lost her ability to walk two months ago while sick with Covid-19. 

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Stacey King, 40, from New Zealand, caught Covid in March and at first experienced typical symptoms – a cough, aches and pains. 

But on the fifth day of her infection, her life completely changed when she woke up unable to walk.

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‘My life has been flipped upside down. I can’t do any of the things I used to enjoyed doing,’ Ms King told News Hub. 

Fit and healthy mother Stacey King, 40, has been unable to walk since catching Covid in March

Fit and healthy mother Stacey King, 40, has been unable to walk since catching Covid in March 

‘It’s like walking through mud up to my knees. It takes me seven minutes to get up a flight of stairs.’ 

Ms King bought her own wheelchair and booked in to see a neurologist, but was told there would be a four-month wait. 

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After her health declined, she went to hospital where she was diagnosed during her four-day stay with functional neurological disorder (FND), a condition where signals between the brain and body are disrupted. 

Doctors told the mother the condition was caused by stress and had nothing to do with her having Covid.

The long Covid sufferer does not believe the two ailments were not related and is now calling for greater awareness about the impacts of the virus.

‘I was absolutely floored. There seems to be trivialisation and a determination to disconnect from the virus as much as possible,’ Ms King said.

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Ms King bought her own wheelchair which she has been using to get around since losing mobility

Ms King bought her own wheelchair which she has been using to get around since losing mobility

WHAT IS LONG COVID?

Long Covid is used to refer to coronavirus symptoms which persist for months after the original infection.

A person is considered to have long Covid if their symptoms continue longer than four weeks after the initial infection.

Sufferers can experience a range of symptoms including extreme tiredness, chest pain, shortness of breath, brain fog, memory loss and changes to taste and smell, among other ailments.

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Source: Healthdirect.gov.au

During the pandemic, there have been a number of cases from around the world of Covid patients losing the ability to walk or struggling to move their limbs after catching the virus.

Dr Rob Griffiths, the Director of Occupational & Aviation Medicine at the University of Otago, said long Covid was a real condition and sufferers’ symptoms needed to be validated.

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He said that people feel they are not being adequately believed, even gaslighted in some cases, and he, along with other experts in the field, were hoping to provide them with some explanation about the nature of long Covid.   

The NZ Ministry of Health’s website lists mobility impairment as one of long Covid’s most common reported neurological symptoms.

In October, Victorian man Will Smith spoke out about his struggle to walk after contracting a mild case of Covid. 

The talented athlete caught the virus in March 2020 while studying in Boston, in the United States. 

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Speaking at a press conference, the 24-year-old revealed he had been grappling with long Covid for more than 18 months. 

Mr Smith said he would feel breathless walking around the block and flare-ups of his symptoms would be brought on from simple activities like taking his dog out for a stroll around the block. 

Will Smith, 24, (pictured) contracted the virus in March last year when he returned to Victoria after completing his studies at a college in Boston

Will Smith, 24, (pictured) contracted the virus in March last year when he returned to Victoria after completing his studies at a college in Boston

‘The initial illness was incredibly frightening,’ Mr Smith told reporters at the time.

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‘The feeling of straining against your own body, trying to expand your lungs against this invisible force, struggling to breathe.

‘I had such debilitating fatigue that I sometimes couldn’t even get out of bed.’ 

In another case, Scottish teenager Sofia was left unable to walk after becoming ill with the virus in October 2020. 

The infection caused inflammation of her toes, which led to red or purple skin, swelling and chilblain-like blisters, which sparked severe pain in her feet.

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WHAT IS FUNCTIONAL NEUROLOGICAL DISORDER (FND)? 

Functional neurological disorder, also known as conversion disorder, can involve a variety of neurological symptoms affecting the motor, sensory and cognitive functions of the body. 

FND symptoms arise out of a disorder in the functioning of the nervous system and not damage to the nervous system.

There are a number of causes, including biological, psychological, and social factors. 

Symptoms may include bowel and bladder problems, seizure-like episodes, vision problems and blindness, severe fatigue, cognitive issues, paralysis and severe limb weakness, abnormal movements, and speech and swallowing difficulties.

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While some people with Functional Neurological Disorder may make a full recovery, there are those whose symptoms improve little despite access to the best multi-disciplinary treatment. 

Source: FND Australia 

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