‘I go up the stairs on all fours to conserve energy’ - Ireland’s ignored health crisis

Musician Ailie Blunnie explains how her life has been impacted by long Covid

Listen | 24:18

When Ailie Blunnie first contracted Covid-19 in March 2021 she expected, like most people, to make a full recovery within a few weeks. Two and half years later, Blunnie’s life has been transformed by the symptoms of long Covid.

A counsellor, psychotherapist and singer songwriter, Ailie led a very busy life before she became sick. Today, she functions at between 30-40 per cent of her previous abilities. If she overexerts herself it can take hours, sometimes days and even weeks, to recover.

“I don’t go to pubs or clubs, or into coffee shops or I don’t go out for dinner,” she explains in today’s In the News podcast. “I don’t drink alcohol, I have a very minimal social life, I go up the stairs on all fours to conserve energy, I don’t drive. I can’t really comfortably write or text or email people.”

Blunnie is one of the five per cent of adults in Ireland – well over 100,000 people – who are living with symptoms of long Covid. For Blunnie, these include chronic fatigue syndrome and autonomic dysfunction (dysfunction of the nervous system) – on good days she can walk to the shop and back, put if she pushes herself too far she could suddenly faint.


The World Health Organisation says long covid “remains a complex condition we still know very little about”, while new cases are emerging all the time.

Dr Jack Lambert, a consultant in infectious diseases, who set up the public Long Covid clinic at the Mater hospital which was closed in 2022, has warned that the HSE is misguidedly treating thousands of long Covid sufferers by focusing on respiratory consequences. The focus should be on the brain and immune problems, Dr Lambert told the podcast.

Today: Is enough being done to help those living with long Covid?

Presented by Sorcha Pollak. Produced by Declan Conlon.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast