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Long Covid – The illness narratives

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Title: Long Covid – The illness narratives
Authors: Rushforth, A
Ladds, E
Wieringa, S
Taylor, S
Husain, L
Greenhalgh, T
Item Type: Journal Article
Abstract: Callard and Perego depict long Covid as the first illness to be defined by patients who came together on social media. Responding to their call to address why patients were so effective in making long Covid visible and igniting action to improve its care, we use narrative inquiry – a field of research that investigates the place and power of stories and storytelling. We analyse a large dataset of narrative interviews and focus groups with 114 people with long Covid (45 of whom were healthcare professionals) from the United Kingdom, drawing on socio-narratology (Frank), therapeutic emplotment (Mattingly) and polyphonia (Bakhtin). We describe how storytelling devices including chronology, metaphor, characterisation, suspense and imagination were used to create persuasive accounts of a strange and frightening new condition that was beset with setbacks and overlooked or dismissed by health professionals. The most unique feature of long Covid narratives (in most but not all cases) was the absence, for various pandemic-related reasons, of a professional witness to them. Instead of sharing their narratives in therapeutic dialogue with their own clinician, people struggled with a fragmented inner monologue before finding an empathetic audience and other resonant narratives in the online community. Individually, the stories seemed to make little sense. Collectively, they provided a rich description of the diverse manifestations of a grave new illness, a shared account of rejection by the healthcare system, and a powerful call for action to fix the broken story. Evolving from individual narrative postings to collective narrative drama, long Covid communities challenged the prevailing model of Covid-19 as a short-lived respiratory illness which invariably delivers a classic triad of symptoms; undertook and published peer-reviewed research to substantiate its diverse and protracted manifestations; and gained positions as experts by experience on guideline development groups and policy taskforces.
Issue Date: Oct-2021
Date of Acceptance: 17-Aug-2021
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/91206
DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114326
ISSN: 0277-9536
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Start Page: 1
End Page: 9
Journal / Book Title: Social Science & Medicine
Volume: 286
Copyright Statement: © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Public Health
11 Medical and Health Sciences
14 Economics
16 Studies in Human Society
Publication Status: Published
Open Access location: https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1dcN~-CmUs1Zu
Article Number: 114326
Online Publication Date: 2021-08-19
Appears in Collections:Faculty of Medicine

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