New support service helping Covid survivors on the road to recovery

A leading Northern Ireland health charity has established a new community support service for survivors of Covid-19.

Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 8:47 am
Pauline Millar, head of respiratory services at NI Chest Heart & Stroke, pictured before social distancing measures were introduced, with Kerry Marsh (left), the charity’s respiratory co-ordinator in the Northern Trust area and other members of the team.

The Covid-19 Recovery Service, which has been set up by NI Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS), will help survivors deal with the physical and psychological problems caused by the illness and will assist them in building up their lung and general health on the long road to recuperation.

Kerry Marsh, the charity’s respiratory co-ordinator in the Northern Trust area, said: “People are suffering the physical effects as well as the mental fallout of having been through such a trauma. A lot of the public focus has been on the virus itself, but there now needs to be a focus on the recovery and long-term effects for those who have survived the illness. Despite a massive drop in public donations, NICHS is pushing ahead with providing this important service because we feel passionately about supporting and saving local lives.”

One of the first to benefit is Niall Murphy, a solicitor who spent weeks on a ventilator after contracting the virus. He is still recovering slowly at home, many weeks after being discharged from hospital, and is unable to return to full-time work. He said: “I was in a coma for 16 days and was given a 50/50 chance of pulling through. I’m only now fully appreciating the danger I was in, but my wife and family had to deal with it in real time.

“I have a long period of recovery ahead, but I’m improving slowly. I’m currently going through a breathing programme offered as part of Chest Heart and Stroke’s Covid recovery service and it has been a great support.”

Respiratory consultant Dr Paul McKeagney said: “Having a support service like this is very useful because it gives people the resources they need for their recovery and enables them to self-manage their condition.”

NICHS will initially provide the service by phone, video call and internet. When Covid-19 restrictions are sufficiently relaxed, and guidance safely permits, it will deliver face-to-face interactions.

“Since the start of this pandemic, we have been providing all our services remotely,” said Kerry.

“We have made more than 17,000 calls to people with chest, heart and stroke conditions across Northern Ireland. That equates to more than 279,000 minutes of advice and reassurance. Remote working is not ideal, but we have introduced a variety of resources, including exercise and breathing videos, to help people build up their lung capacity and heart health.”

Covid-19 survivors can be referred to the service by a medical professional or can self-refer by emailing [email protected]