April 2020: The coronavirus already has Germany and the world firmly in its grip. It is a challenging time, the situation is new for everyone, no one knows what the course of the disease will be. In this first phase of the pandemic, Andreas Sossau is also tested positive for COVID-19. The man from Chiemgau speaks about his diagnosis and illness and how he came to the Kliniken Schmieder as a Long Covid patient. These are personal insights – direct, blunt, and with the only certainty: recovered does not mean healthy.
My COVID-19 illness itself felt more like a mild flu, I didn’t even have a cold or cough. A seemingly mild flu, but with even more severe consequences. Who knows how long the late effects will last, no one can say for sure how Long Covid symptoms will develop. The uncertainty of whether I will ever be the same again, whether I will be able to return to work, is a burden. Actually, I’m a doer, always active, always on the go. It’s hard to realise that my body and mind no longer cooperate as they used to.
I quickly reached my limits: I felt exhausted very quickly, both physically and cognitively. In addition to the strong exhaustion, this fatigue, came a ringing in the ears. Then suddenly there were problems with my fine motor skills: I could no longer easily put the key into the keyhole. I also couldn’t concentrate well and often forgot things. And then I had this missing sense of smell and taste and even word-finding problems.
So I decided to go to rehab to Kliniken Schmieder. That was the best decision. Here I got a therapy programme that was individually tailored to my problems, but also tight, so I was always pretty exhausted in the evening. Although I already knew it, it was a shock to realise how bad my cognitive abilities really were. In the first occupational therapy hours, for example, I could hardly assign pictures correctly. You feel so stupid somehow, not like a grown man anyway. And you ask yourself: how can this be and will it ever be alright again? The most dangerous thing about being a Long Covid patient is that you get overtaxed too quickly, because you think it has to get better, no matter what. The long journey, the new surroundings, new impressions, suddenly therapy every day, new people, that was definitely too much for me. You have to give yourself time, that’s what I learned.
Talking in the Long Covid group was a wonderful opportunity to share fears and worries with like-minded people. It helped a lot to realise that you are not alone. I would like to implement a concrete idea from the group, even though I am not really the type for it: In future, I will keep a diary about my development. I want to record every success or failure so that I can remember it later. And I even liked the relaxation exercises during the relaxation training and in the breathing therapy group, although I was never a friend of such mental stories.
There are many small steps of improvement that I made here during the rehab. As we all know, little things make a mess, which is also motivating. My word-finding problems are hardly there any more, my general resilience and coordination have improved a lot. The fatigue is also not as strong as it was at the beginning. I can estimate the distances when climbing stairs quite well again and I can hit the key into the keyhole without any problems. The computer training in neuropsychology and the discussions there have definitely helped me a lot. I notice how my brain can think in a more structured way again.
On the other hand, there are still some limitations that will keep me busy for a while. Calculating with numbers above ten is only possible when I don’t feel stressed or have absolute peace and silence. Repeating short stories in my own words is almost impossible. I can usually only remember little things, my brain often can’t grasp the meaning behind the stories. It’s crazy to see how the brain has been jumbled up by the virus.
After six weeks of rehab, I definitely feel more equipped for the many challenges ahead. I know how to deal with certain things better and I’ve learned to accept that I’m allowed to make mistakes. My neuropsychologist recommends mental training in addition to the cognitive tasks as a balance. Self-care is also important, she says, so that you don’t put too much pressure on yourself and are allowed to be selfish, just put your feet up. I want to try all that. One step at a time.