Fears for survival linger for long covid patients yearning to return to normal in Milton Keynes
A hospital physio has spoken of the physical, emotional and psychological damage that surviving Covid is having on patients.
Advanced respiratory physiotherapist Louise Worrall told MK University Hospital chiefs that her team of four has seen a rising wave of patients who have had to battle for their lives in intensive care.
“They have huge amounts of fear if they are going to survive, being so unwell and fear about their recovery, that’s a very prominent thing we hear about,” she told a meeting of the hospital’s board on Thursday.
Recalling their experiences and not seeing families is also “very hard for them”, she added.
“Will I ever get back to normal is something a lot of them are really worried about.
“We are going to see this for months and years to come,” she added.
Between January and March the team saw 62 acute referrals on top of the usual referrals from consultant clinics and GPs.
She spoke of last year’s wave being “four times higher” than normal.
Many people leave hospital “extremely debilitated, struggling to manage their symptoms, frightened and needing some support and rehab for problems including breathlessness,” she said.
She gave the board a couple of anonymous but real life examples of long covid sufferers as part of a series of “patient stories”.
One is a 46-year-old married father of a seven-year-old son who is typical of the people in their 40s, 50s and 60s her team is helping.
“He was previously completely fit and well with no past medical history working in a warehouse and regularly going to the gym, active and no problems at all” she said.
He became unwell with typical covid symptoms on December 13, testing positive on the 14th and deteriorating in health until being admitted on December 18.
He worsened and had the “maximum amount of oxygen” but was still deteriorating.
He was in intensive care for nine days, although not ventilated, and was in the hospital for a total of 21 days.
But on discharge he was “extremely breathless”, very tired and could not walk very far, suffering “brain fog”.
“Life was very difficult for him,” she said.
With help he has just got back to the gym and started a phased return to work after 10 weeks but is still struggling four months after discharge.
Of the 60 or 70 people her team has seen so far this year, many will need help for weeks and months to come, she said.
Another fit 46-year-old male musician, who was admitted 12 months ago was on a ventilator for 22 days and in hospital for 74 days in total. Only this week has he returned to work full time hours.
He completed a fundraising challenge by walking the equivalent of three marathons in a month, she said.
“Their lives are saved here, they leave hospital and they have a long road ahead of them but rehabilitation does get these people back to who they were before,” she added.