As a sufferer of ‘long Covid’, 28-year-old Callum O’Dwyer knows more than most just how debilitating and life-altering contracting coronavirus can be, regardless of your age or fitness. 

Mr O’Dwyer, from Aberdeenshire, started showing symptoms for the virus on the first day of lockdown in March - and was quickly left so physically and mentally fatigued he had no choice but to move back in with his parents so they could take care of him.

Now, he is speaking out in a bid to raise awareness among young people, and to stress the fact that while many people, especially younger, only experience mild symptoms - the illness can have a serious and damaging impact on anyone.

“No one is immune, even young people and students”, he explained. “There is a significant chance that you could end up losing 6 months of your life, or more, from the virus, and it’s an incredibly difficult and gruelling recovery.” 

Before catching Covid, Mr O’Dwyer had enjoyed an active lifestyle and would frequently go out running and walking. But since March, he has had to grapple with devastating symptoms - including fatigue, breathlessness, a racing heart rate, brain fog and excruciating stomach pain.

HeraldScotland: Callum O'Dwyer is speaking out in a bid to encourage students to stay safeCallum O'Dwyer is speaking out in a bid to encourage students to stay safe

He was described by friends and family as “exuberant and energetic” prior to his illness, kept busy with a demanding job as an engineer and a long-distance relationship that saw him spending any free time travelling to and from Edinburgh.

“I was the kind of person who, at a wedding, was the first person on the dance floor and the last one off,” he said. “But soon I was so weak I was struggling to pick up medium-sized water bottles. I was really struggling to take care of myself, I couldn’t even stay on top of the dishes.

“I was waking up in the middle of the night and feeling like I couldn’t get enough air in, which was very scary. It felt like I was being smothered. 

“And the tiredness I felt was completely exhausting. It’s not just a regular tiredness, this is an exhaustion that drains away at your very soul.”

With that in mind, he recorded this message to remind young people to stay safe and look out for themselves as well as others.

Now approaching month number seven, Mr O’Dwyer’s life remains extremely limited, despite starting to see a slight improvement in his fatigue and energy levels. 

“I’m very proud to say that I’ve gotten myself back to work, although I’m only averaging two hours a day which is a substantial reduction from what was the norm and what would be expected of me. 

“I’m only at about 60 per cent of my former self, but it’s still a massive improvement on where I was a few months ago when if I would even try to lift a chair across the garden I would be completely out of breath and have to wait 45 minutes to catch my breath, as well as having issues with heart palpitations and excruciating stomach pain.”

And recently he’s been getting sharp pains in his chest for approximately 45 minutes in the evenings, which serve as an excruciating reminder that the road to full recovery still stretches long out ahead of him. 

“I spoke to a doctor way back when and he said that within about six months I could expect to be back to my normal self, but that’s just led to disappointment because here I am nearly seven months on. 

“I had thought it would roughly be Christmas time, but if it pushes on to March next year which would make it a year that I’ve been unwell, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

For Mr O’Dwyer, it’s important that young people and students understand the risks of catching and spreading the virus pose to their own peers, not merely the elderly and “typically vulnerable” population.

“We only ever hear about cases and deaths, and if you don’t die within a month of catching Covid you are considered to be recovered. But that’s not always the case,” he added.

“There has been a lot of communication to students and young people about ‘doing the right thing’ and avoiding passing it on to older people. 

“But as the current outbreak works its way through the population, young people and students need to understand the health implications the virus can have for anyone.

“It is absolutely galling I’m sure if you’re 18 years old, you’ve just arrived at uni and all you want is to have those important university experiences. But I would just say to students, there will 100 per cent be time in your life for all of that, there will be those opportunities.

“What you don’t want is this virus to strip months if not years from your life in a gruelling, dreadful recovery that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”