Tuesday, May 18

People with prolonged Covid urgently need help. Why can’t we access it? | Long Covid


I I just finished a remote rehab class with a physical therapist at my local university hospital. It’s the first time I’ve tried an hour of exercise since I got Covid almost a year ago, and I managed a measly 20 minutes of walking in place and strengthening exercises before having to go to bed. He used to be strong, fit and healthy, teaching yoga when not working as an infectious disease consultant. Since I developed Covid for a long time, my ability to manage daily activities is unpredictable. On good days I can walk 45 minutes, but on bad days I have a hard time preparing dinner.

The class is intended for people with chronic lung diseases, which I do not have. But when I was offered a spot on the show, I was so relieved at the opportunity to help that I was willing to try anything. He had high hopes in October when Boris Johnson announced £ 10 million to establish long Covid clinics. Five months later, I still haven’t been referred to one. Although the government has recently given £ 18.5 million in research funding For the disease, it seems now all the focus is on the vaccine and lifting the lockdown, while those living with Covid for a long time have been largely forgotten.

Approaching the first anniversary of getting Covid, I feel like I am a member of a club that I never wanted to join, the “first wave long-life haulers.” My initial illness was, by definition, a mild case of Covid: no hospital admission and no risk factors for serious illness. Months later, I found myself experiencing post-exertional fatigue, sporadic chest pains, and a brain that felt only half-functioning. I ended up abandoning grocery shopping and needed to lie down in the park in the middle of a walk. This debilitating Fatigue can leave me ground for days.

And I am not alone. According to a study published last September According to researchers at King’s College London, 60,000 people in the UK have likely been suffering from Covid for a long time. The real number is now probably much higher; most recent data from Office of National Statistics suggests that up to 10% of people who have had Covid may be experiencing ongoing symptoms.

After months of waiting, I spoke with a respiratory consultant who referred me to a physical therapist for rehabilitation. When asked if there were any services tailored to Covid patients for a long time, the physiotherapist told me that there were not, and explained that they did not have the manpower, space or resources for such a service. I was wondering where the £ 10 million allocated to set up Covid clinics for a long time had gone. There are now 69 operating clinics across the country, according to the NHS England website. However, I have not been able to access one, nor have others that I have known with Covid for a long time.

My reaction was to ask doctors in my field what was happening to Covid clinics for a long time in their local areas. I contacted 18 infectious disease colleagues from university hospitals across the country. Of the 16 who responded, six had extended formal Covid clinics. Some said the provision for the disease was woefully inadequate, while others reported that only He only saw patients who had been admitted to hospital with acute Covid-19. At my local university hospital, funding for Covid patients for a long time is spread across multiple departments and there is no dedicated team for these patients.

This is not a representative survey, and I know that some Covid clinics have long provided excellent care to patients like me. the The Leeds clinic, run by a rehabilitation consultant, seems to have the right approach: its multidisciplinary team provides guidance and support to people with prolonged Covid, helping them manage their daily life with the symptoms they have. For a disease that does not have a specific treatment and whose underlying processes are not yet known, this practical help is essential.

However, it appears that many carriers remain in a post-viral sea, searching for a mooring in the hope that something can be offered. We have known about this disease since last summer and it has been officially recognized. since October, but we are just beginning to understand how to help those who live with it. The yoga group I established last spring for some people with the disease has acted as a good sounding board. If someone has an exacerbation of their symptoms, we ask what they were doing before, as it is often easier for others to objectively identify the cause.

Still, what I’d really like is an exercise physiologist to identify what is happening in my body when it crashes and tell me what I can do to prevent it, and a physical therapist to assess how I could best use my limited energy. There are still no common protocols or guidelines for physical therapists who handle this sickness. But there are places to start: We know that for most people with prolonged Covid, gradual exercise therapy (whereby physical exercise gradually increases over time) can be detrimental to recovery. The energy supply is limited and learning to control the rhythm is essential; If you spend the morning using brain power, you may have nothing left for physical activity, and vice versa.

After months of living with this disease, I have tried to put behind the frustrations that come when I can’t get things done and the overwhelming worry of when I’ll be fit enough to go back to work. But what I struggle to put aside is the lack of help and care that many of us with long Covid are receiving.

  • When fit to work, Joanna Herman is an infectious disease consultant in London and teaches at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


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