NHS-funded Long COVID workshops help patient’s recovery

When Karen Ghosh caught COVID-19 she didn’t realise the long-term impact the virus would have on her health and life.

She experienced what many have with the virus – flu-like symptoms that meant a week in bed and time off from her admin job.

But Karen’s initial symptoms in January 2021 only got worse. Although she was never hospitalised, the 44-year-old ended up with stabbing pains a month later, extreme exhaustion and an inability to function in her job.

Karen is now on the road to recovery with the help of free ESNEFT Long COVID workshops.

Karen Ghosh

Karen before she had COVID-19 with her cat Tin-Tin

The NHS programme support officer said: “I’ve never taken a week off work and had to call in sick. I felt awful. I thought I’d get better – everyone expects you to get better – but it just continued.

“I was going to bed really early while trying to struggle on with the fatigue and my pain. By Easter 2021 I decided to call my doctor as I was finding things so difficult.”

Karen was signed off work and is only on a phased return one year later.

She added: “It’s had a huge impact on me and my life. Among other symptoms, I’ve lost hair, I’ve been breathless, everything aches, I have brain fog and I have fatigue that I’ve never experienced before and that has been debilitating. Even feeding my three cats has been hard.

“I’ve also really struggled with guilt about not being at work. I’ve found that very hard emotionally.”

Karen Ghosh

Karen Ghosh pictured now

Karen, who is married to a diagnostic radiographer, was referred by her GP to the Long COVID Team at Ipswich Hospital.

She said: “They’ve been great at validating what I’m going through, and it’s helped me realise I’m not on my own. I’m having to accept myself as Karen post-COVID.”

Through the service Karen has signed up for specialist workshops ESNEFT has set up with various organisations in the area offering creative arts.

“I’ve done singing and music workshops, art and creative writing. The instructors have been empathic and there’s no pressure to participate if you’re unsure about joining in or feel exhausted.” She said. “The sessions have given me a positive focus that isn’t long COVID focused, and a lot of the ideas are new to me. It’s also great socially and helped with my mental health.”

Sarah Fowler, Co-Clinical Lead for Suffolk and North East Essex Long COVID Clinic, said: “We’re really pleased to be able to offer a wide range of groups for people who have been referred to the service and may be interested.

“There are online groups such as writing, singing, art and even gentle movement. We have face-to-face printmaking workshops running with Tower Street Press and face-to-face music therapy sessions run by Ace Music Therapy – these sessions are being funded by Colchester and Ipswich Hospital Charities.”

Sessions are free and run across eight weeks.

Cohere Arts is the organisation running several of the workshops as part of their Creative Space programme. Amy Mallett, artistic director, said feedback about the workshops has been really positive so far.

She added: “It’s still early days but we’ve had great comments from those who have participated. People telling us the sessions have made them feel ‘refreshed again’ and that they’ve helped them physically with things like balance and movement.”

For more information about the Long COVID Service please visit our website.

 

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