The vascular surgeon Claudia Ellert (50) from Wetzlar has been suffering from Long-Covid for almost two years. Now she has written a book that wants both: catch – and enlighten. With regard to the latter, she also sees a need to catch up among experts.

FOCUS online: Ms. Ellert, your new book has just been published: “Long-Covid – Ways to New Strength”. Sounds like you could encourage those affected?

Claudia Ellert: That’s my concern, yes. However, if you look at the table of contents, you will find that the whole thing is within certain limits. No false promises of salvation. In particular, we currently have therapies and measures available that help to alleviate symptoms. In the third chapter, I discuss options for dealing with the disease. This is a central topic for me: How can you find your way into a changed everyday life with or despite Long-Covid?

Claudia Ellert is a specialist in surgery and vascular surgery. In November 2020 she fell ill with Covid-19. After her illness, she suffered from long-term effects and had to undergo inpatient rehabilitation. Today she wants to educate about Long Covid.

Specifically, you talk about postures that make breathing easier, help to mentally cope with the limitations of the disease, and relaxation techniques. To be honest, that sounds like a long way from a breakthrough in therapy.

Ellert: On the one hand, that is correct, on the other hand, there is always new hope. The federal government has just approved an additional ten million euros for long-Covid research. It can be assumed that with this money some clinical study groups can finally start the work that those affected have been looking forward to for a long time. I’m mainly talking about people like me who have had complaints for many months or even years and can only get through the day with limitations and good energy management. People who develop the most severe form of Long-Covid. A condition called ME/CFS, which some may have come across as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

We spoke to each other earlier this year. At that time you said that you used to do triathlons and since Corona you can only do one walk. How is it now?

Ellert: Physically it stayed the same, unfortunately. But a lot has happened mentally. I got to know the symptoms of the disease and my limits well over time and found a way to deal with them. Fighting the disease is not a good idea. Acceptance is an important first step…

And then?

Ellert: You learn to live from day to day and to keep looking anew at what works and what doesn’t. Right now I don’t think much about what’s tomorrow or next week or next year. That would just be unnerving. Hope lies in therapies that make healing possible. Then, of course, I would be able to see the future differently.

In what way?

Ellert: In general, it is assumed that with Long-Covid we are dealing with physical changes that can be reversed. A major advantage of the therapies that are now to be funded by the federal government: these are initially therapies that have already been researched in connection with other diseases. If an effect for Long-Covid should be proven, one can count on relatively quick approvals.

There is nothing in your book about the work of the research groups…

Ellert: Because that’s still a thing of the future. Incidentally, the funding had not yet been approved when the book was completed. It’s good if something is finally happening now. The said ten million euros will certainly not be sufficient. But they’re a start, anyway.

The RKI assumes that between 7.5 out of 41 percent of all corona infected people will develop long-Covid. A huge number. How can it be that politics is only now really putting the issue on the agenda?

Ellert: I think one problem is these discussions, which have gotten bogged down for a long time. How common is Long-Covid? What relevance does it have? Content controversies didn’t exactly speed up the process either.

Is Long-Covid really a physical illness or maybe more of a psychological problem? In the area of ​​general practitioner care, there is still a lack of experience with postviral clinical pictures. The doctors depend on the descriptions of those affected. Descriptions that you as a professional have to get involved with.

It is often claimed that Long-Covid is diffuse and cannot be objectified, you write in your book. And then: That’s wrong.

Ellert: In the second chapter, I try to describe the symptoms so clearly that a doctor or those affected can understand them. In this sense, the book can certainly serve as a basis for a better understanding of the disease.

And then? How can those affected be helped?

Ellert: The bitter truth, as I said, is that there is still no cure for many of those affected. But there is also an opportunity: Appropriate behavior can reduce the risk of long-Covid becoming a chronic disease from which patients will suffer for life. Look, my corona infection was in November 2020. With today’s knowledge, I would certainly have behaved completely differently.

What would you do differently now?

Ellert: After the acute infection, I wanted to start again straight away. I couldn’t go jogging, I was too weak for that. So I went Nordic walking and skating. I thought I could train my limits away. That was clearly a mistake in reasoning. What would have been the right thought with today’s knowledge?

Ellert: Covid-19 is a vascular disease and therefore a disease of the whole body. You have to give your body time to recover. Unfortunately, little is known to this day that sport can be counterproductive in the initial period after infection. If my book sensitizes people to this point, that’s good. The more people who can be spared my medical history, the better.

And if the child fell into the well and the ailments continue, like yours?

Ellert: Here we come to the topic of dealing with the disease. Keyword job: professional reintegration usually follows the so-called Hamburg model and lasts six weeks. This is far too little for people with Long-Covid! I plead for an extended reintegration. For me, it went on for a much longer period of time. A time that I needed to find out which activities work in everyday working life and which don’t work so well.

“Long Covid – ways to new strength: Symptoms, treatment methods, help for self-help” by Claudia Ellert


Ellert: Concentrated work alone on the PC, for example, is not a big problem. However, if I do several activities at the same time, it quickly becomes tiring. Unfortunately, the latter is part of everyday life in acute medicine. You are talking to a patient, the phone rings, and at the same time you want to make an appointment. If I know that I am less resilient in such situations than I used to be, I can organize my working day differently. Of course, this only works in close coordination with the supervisor. Here, too, my book may be of some help. If those affected feel strengthened in their perception and their appearance after reading it, a lot is gained!

The book has a fairly detailed section on our social system and access to benefits from it.

Ellert: Yes, the readers are taken by the hand to a certain extent. Where can I find help? Who is responsible for what? Ultimately, of course, it is primarily the politicians who are called upon here too. The data on the occurrence of occupational diseases in 2021 was recently available.

The number of recognized occupational diseases has more than tripled compared to the previous year! This is mainly due to the Covid-19 diseases recognized as an occupational disease. It is a mystery to me how, among other things, pension insurance providers want to deal with this dramatic situation.

However, if you go to the supermarket or through a pedestrian zone, you get the impression that Corona is over. Masks are hardly worn anymore. How do you explain that?

Ellert: People are unsettled, political decisions and measures are increasingly difficult to understand. It has become almost impossible to find one’s way through the jungle of information. I think it’s perfectly understandable that from this chaos of information one deduces that measures are pointless and not necessary.

For me, there is still a lack of good education. As they say? We have to learn to live with Corona. That’s correct. But we can only do that if we know what’s going on and act accordingly. Maybe a bit by supporting my book.