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P&J Investigations

I didn’t get vaccinated. Now Long Covid has wrecked my life

Stephen Stewart
Theresa Summers from Portlethen, Aberdeen, is battling Long Covid

Theresa Summers, from Portlethen, near Aberdeen, was one of many Scots who had initial fears over getting a Covid-19 vaccine when they were first introduced.

Her husband Tommy shared those worries so they both opted not to get the jab; a decision that would have serious consequences for both after they contracted Covid.

They ended up in hospital and while Tommy, 71, recovered after a spell in ICU, Theresa’s life has now been turned upside down by Long Covid – the medical mystery dubbed ‘the biggest mass disabling event since the First World War’.

Theresa Summers before and during her Long Covid battle.
Theresa Summers before and during her Long Covid battle.

Throughout her ordeal Theresa, 54, kept a diary and has now shared her day-to-day thoughts with us to raise awareness of Long Covid, to urge people to get vaccinated and to spread the following message: Long Covid is here to stay.

We’ve converted Theresa’s diary entries into graphic form to show the agonies she has endured.

Theresa’s Long Covid story

Cartoon, dated June 28, 2021, of a woman in bed ill with Long Covid, caption reads: "I had the usual Covid symptoms, we were getting worse."Cartoon of a hand holding a phone with the words "By day 8 I phoned the doctor" coming out of the screen. Caption reads: "My husband Tommy went to hospital then I went in and it wasn't as bad as initially thought for me. Only in for two days."Cartoon of a man ill in a hospital bed with long covid. The caption reads: "Tommy ends up in ICU"Cartoon, dated June 30, 2021 of a woman holding her hands over her face, the caption reads: "Got home and it was horrendous. On my own. Not allowed visitors, feeling absolutely terrified, not knowing what covid is doing to you. Heart racing, so scary." The bottom half of the strip shows a corridor to a door with the caption "can't even walk from the bedroom to the toilet."cartoon, dated July 22, 2021 of a man and a woman hugging. The caption reads: "Tommy came home from the hospital today. Relief he has lung damage but no Long Covid"Cartoon, dated August 16, of a hand holding a list of long covid symptoms. The caption reads: "Been floored with covid, the last seven weeks, still suffering fatigue, muscle/joint pain, loss of taste and smell, heavy/tight chest, headaches. Also heart racing, insomnia and brain fog." The bottom half of the strip shows a man with his thumbs up. The caption reads: Tommy getting stronger each day but still gets breathless if he does too much."

Cartoon showing a woman smiling before long covid diagnosis and unhappy after covid diagnosis. The caption reads "Lost nearly a stone in weight with no appetite. Losing weight was the only good thing about covid."Cartoon dated August 17 showing a watering can watering plants. The caption reads: "watered plants front and back. First time I have been able to do this in seven weeks. Feel a bit more energetic today. The bottom half shows a woman holding packets of medication. The caption reads: "11.30pm. Felt a bit strange. Questioned if I had taken my Phenobarbitone today. Can't remember!!! Really worried I had missed two doses. Annoyed at myself as not like me to miss my medication. Have never missed a dose in the 40 years I have been taking it." Cartoon, dated August 22, of an alarm clock showing 8am - "woke at 08.00 slightly better today, only mild symptoms." Caption reads: Walk round Nicol Park with Tommy and Peanut. Managed 30 minutes today. So chuffed." 10:00 - Shower and house cleaning 10:00 - 11:00 then rest until 12.45. 13:00 - 14:00 - "Dog field with Tommy and Peanut. Started feeling unwell, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain. Possibly did too much."Cartoon of people in bed under covers. Caption reads: "In bed remainder of the day. Tommy's oxygen levels dropped to 82 last night but rose to 93 within a few minutes. Phew! Such a worry. Think he is pushing himself too much but he is determined to get better."Cartoon, dated August 23, of a vaccination centre and a person getting the Covid vaccine. Caption reads: "Breakfast - shower and short tidy up. Felt well enough to go to P&J Live for first vaccine.Cartoon of a woman's feet next to a smiley face AM and a sad face PM. The caption reads: Once home felt fatigue setting in and bad headache also muscle and joint pain and had metallic taste in mouth. In bed remainder of the day.Cartoon, dated September 6 of Theresa Summers. Caption reads: "No long covid clinic in Grampian area. Found two links to support networks but otherwise just have to give it time. GPs don't seem to have any answers and are unsure of Long Covid."Cartoon, dated September 9, of a woman in bed. The caption reads: "Not great today. Unable to sleep last night. Woke at 02:45 and still awake at 04:30. Stayed in bed until 13:00 then shower and wee tidy up. Not great."Cartoon, dated September 27, of milk being poured into a cereal bowl and a phone calling the GP surgery. Captions read: In bed all day, terrible day. Full symptoms. Taste and smell distorted and rank. Coffee, meat, cereal, rich tea biscuits, Peanut's dog food makes me gag." and "phone GP surgery again to request to start back on citalopram as this long covid is really getting me down. Feel low the last few days with getting new symptoms."Cartoon, dated September 29, of people queueing in a supermarket wearing masks. The caption reads: "Went to Asda at 19:30 to get card for Tommy. Queue at checkout, felt anxious and couldn't wait to get home."Cartoon, dated September 30, of rollercoasters with smiley and sad faces. Caption reads: "Long Covid is such a rollercoaster. Some days feel better but it does not last! Also worried about work, been off three months now and still no better. Smell and taste distortion getting worse."Cartoon, dated October 7, of a hand with many pills in it. Caption reads: "Not keen on taking all these meds but if it makes me feel better I will try anything. I have went from taking one type of medication daily to taking 10 medications daily. So so today."Cartoon, dated October 12, of a chest x-ray. Caption reads: "Tommy got his chest x-ray results today. Still some lung damage and heart slightly enlarged. Advised to take it easy."Cartoon, dated October 19, of a woman in an office environment. Caption reads: "Spoke to manager re retirement. She will discuss it with HR and get back to me."Cartoon of Theresa Summers writing in her Long Covid recovery diary. Caption reads: "We have friends that are anti-vaxxers and we have both been so ill with this that we say to them "please get the vaccine" but they are so dead set against it. Nothing will change their mind."Cartoon of a diary. The caption reads: "Oh my God, we just don't want you to go through what we have been through. Can't get through to them. Such a cruel condition! When will this end."Theresa and Tommy’s case is one being played out across the country – people with mild infections, which in some cases don’t even require hospitalisation, are devastated by the draining symptoms of Long Covid.

Two years into the pandemic, Long Covid is still a very poorly understood condition which has triggered a public health crisis in its own right.

World-renowned medical expert Dr Anthony Fauci suggested that up to 35 percent of people with a coronavirus infection will develop Long Covid.

The Office of National Statistics estimate 1,209,000 people in the UK are living with the condition, with 99,000 in Scotland.

Since Long Covid has no universally agreed clinical diagnostic test, this figure could be the tip of the iceberg with many people in Aberdeenshire and the Highlands going undiagnosed.

Muscle spasms, chronic fatigue, diarrhoea, air hunger to the point of gasping for breath, and even organ failure have all been cited as symptoms.

Where can I get help if I think I have Long Covid?

More stories


  • Words by Stephen Stewart
  • Story design by Cheryl Livingstone
  • Illustrations by Roddie Reid