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Restart Programme helping those suffering from Long Covid

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A photo of Long Covid sufferer Ian Davison

Six months on from catching Covid, Ian Davison was still in pain, exhausted and struggling to breathe.

The primary school teacher was infected with the virus in January, developing a cough and struggling to regulate his temperature.

As the infection went and the days turned into weeks, the 55-year-old was "completely tired, all the time" and suffered from confusion, memory loss and a lack of concentration - known as "brain fog" - as well as pains in his legs, calves and ankles.

He didn't leave the house and was unable to do day-to-day tasks like shopping, took pain relief every four hours and was left breathless after walking short distances.

A chest scan revealed Ian, who enjoyed running and walking and considered himself relatively fit and healthy pre-Covid, had ‘smoker's lungs' - even though he'd never touched cigarettes, and has never been surrounded by smokers.

Ian suffers from Long Covid - a condition which sees patients develop long-term symptoms after initially recovering from the coronavirus infection.

Although it has already affected more than two million adults in the UK, many are unaware of how serious it can be and can struggle to overcome the condition.

But in June, the married dad-of-two enrolled in Middlesbrough Council's Restart Program, a 12 week course which helps those suffering from Long Covid.

After just four weeks of the course, delivered at the Live Well Centre in the Dundas Arcade, Ian is in the gym with a tailored program of exercises and physio to help overcome his symptoms, and he's been able to return to work.

"The program has literally been a life-saver, I can't say enough good things about it," said Ian, who lives in Marton.

"I'd encourage anyone with Long Covid symptoms in Middlesbrough to enrol on the program because it helps so much.

"I'm not sure there's enough public awareness around Long Covid, and it was only by chance that I was told about the program at the Live Well Centre.

"Everyone who needs to know about it, should know about it."

Ian continued: "Before I started the program, I felt alone. You begin to think you're never going to get better. The pain can be horrific.

"It's also a tremendously big strain on your mental health. I felt mentally very fragile on quite a few occasions. You also feel guilty.

"Because I didn't know how long the illness would last for, I would get a one week or two week sick note - but at the end of it, I felt no better.

"It was hard for me to give my headteacher an answer on when I could come back to work, and if I did return to school then it's very difficult to teach children, make yourself understood and instil discipline when you have a foggy brain - you feel confused, and you feel low and tired.

"But the team at the Live Well Centre know how to help, they push you when they think you need to be pushed but they also understand when you've done enough, and provide encouragement.

"Now, every day you can see you are getting a little bit better.

"It's giving me my confidence and independence back."

Director of Public Health for South Tees, Mark Adams, said: "Long Covid is a recognised illness that affects many people who have contracted Covid-19, and can be debilitating for those living with it.

"But if you still struggle with Covid symptoms it's important to know that you are not on your own - support is available.

"While the rates of Covid infection in Middlesbrough remain so high, we urgently need people to get their vaccination as well as continuing to follow established guidance on hands-face-space and fresh air.

"People should also continue to take regular lateral flow tests, especially if they're meeting lots of people they don't live with.

"There remains a significant risk of catching and spreading Covid-19, which is still leading to hospital admissions and can leave a legacy of Long Covid in the community."

The Restart Programme is free and run by Middlesbrough Council and South Tees Public Health.

It is designed for those suffering from Long Covid symptoms, or for people at an increased risk of contracting Covid who may be expected to have a worse recovery from the disease - such as those with a BMI over 40, diabetes, coronary heart disease, or limited mobility.

Those taking part are assessed to make sure they get tailored support for any other issues linked to the Long Covid condition - before being provided with a tailored, progressive exercise program.

A mentor will support and review progress every week.

For more information visit the Live Well Centre website, email livewellcentre@middlesbrough.gov.uk visit the centre inside Dundas House or call 01642 727580 to speak to a member of the Restart team.

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