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‘Feeling a shift’ – a rehab professional’s battle against Long COVID

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Last month, assistant neuropsychologist Alarna shared her story of living with Long COVID, and her role as a rehab professional attempting to rehab herself. Here, she updates on her journey to recovery

 

The road to recovery as I have now dubbed it has been painstakingly long, however in my sleepiness I found my life now moves to a new rhythm, there was a point that I let go of the frustration of not being energised and began to embrace the slower pace. 

I continue to work shorter days at work but at last I have found that when I am awake, I am fully awake, alert, and productive. My speech, inside my head, has sped up to what I would call a reasonable speed (lol) and cognitively I am no longer feeling as though my processing speed is reduced. 

It did not seem right to have written a part one to this journey and not returned to provide an update. My hope being that someone else who has experienced long Covid will know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As it stands it does not seem there is a common thread among those suffering and I believe the latest statistics are that over a million people in the UK alone have been diagnosed with long term symptoms. 

I am about to make a controversial statement because I am naturally an optimist and someone who refuses for pain or suffering to be a waste, but I feel that this has in some ways been a positive experience for me as it has forced me to really take a look at my lifestyle, my habits, the excuses I would give in my head for being a workaholic, and how detrimental this had become. There is nothing wrong with giving of your time, energy, focus and resources as long as it is not to your own detriment.

When I began to look at this experience as a turning point and opportunity for positive change, I became extremely grateful, not only to have survived but also for this very unique opportunity. 

I am still not back to my baseline but in comparison to a few short weeks ago, major progress has been made. I thought I would include a few things below that I have incorporated into my routine and found very useful 

  1. Consciously remaining in the present moment – it can become easy to look back and be sad about what is no longer the same, or to look to the future and become anxious about what may or may not happen. Being grounded in the present allows you to appreciate and feel each moment for what it is and embrace every part of the journey. 
  2. Setting aside one hour per day purely to do something relaxing, whether it be reading, singing, praying, drawing, or sitting in the garden while listening to music
  3. I bought a new journal to write absolutely anything that came to my mind – good, bad, or ugly which released it and helped me stay peaceful (p.s. for my fellow psychologists this makes for good analysis after the fact)
  4. Spending time with loved ones just laughing, even if at nothing in particular 
  5. Taking a break from social media, to quiet the ‘noise’
  6. Staying away from negativity 
  7. Positive affirmations/ confessions e.g. ‘this is temporary, I am well’ ‘every experience has at least one positive’ etc. 
  8. Being honest with myself about how I am feeling 
  9. Being disciplined with my health goals 
  10. SMILING through it all

Once again, a very big thank you to my supervisor at Renovo Dr Anita Rose, Director Dorothy Lain, and my colleagues Margreet, Ana, and Chris who are so encouraging, kind, and supportive, even making it their mission to help me reach my rehab goals. 

I challenge everyone reading this to take any negative situation that they are experiencing and pick three key lessons or something positive that has happened as a result, I guarantee you will find something if you search for it. 

Stay positive, stay healthy and take care of yourself. 

A rehab professional rehabbing herself. 

Brain injury

Has UEFA done enough to protect player safety at Euro 2020?

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The collapse of Denmark’s Christian Eriksen due to a cardiac arrest during his team’s opening game at Euro 2020 shocked football fans worldwide and raised many questions about player safety. Here, sports disputes lawyer Barrington Atkins examines football authorities’ approach to the safety of players and asks whether UEFA has done enough to protect those competing at Euro 2020

 

Concussion safety was meant to be at the forefront of the Euro 2020 finals. 

All 24 teams committed to following the recommendations of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Concussion Charter, which was a commitment to player welfare and player safety. 

All 24 teams agreed to implement the serious measures recommended by UEFA to provide care for players who experience concussions or have injuries on the pitch. The message of the Charter was clear: if a player is suspected of concussion, they must be removed from the field of play.

UEFA’s focus on concussion follows a growing awareness of the greater risk footballers’ face of neurodegenerative diseases from head injuries. Research commissioned by the Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association found that ex-professional footballers are three and a half times more likely to die from dementia than people of the same age range in the general population.

The concussion and fractured skull sustained by Wolves’ Raul Jimenez following a collision with Arsenal’s David Luiz in November 2020 was the final straw that led to the implementation of the concussion substitutes rule in the Premier League. This new rule states that if a player has clear symptoms of concussion or video provides clear evidence of concussion, his team will be permitted to replace him with an additional substitute.

On 21 February 2021, Rob Holding became the first Premier League player to be replaced under the rule. The protection the rule provided to player safety was instantly demonstrated as Holding was confirmed to have concussion the following day.

Despite the proven benefits, UEFA decided against approving the concussion substitutes rule for the Euro 2020 finals. The injuries football fans have witnessed during the European tournament have undoubtedly challenged UEFA’s decision and called into question whether the Concussion Charter is effective enough for player safety.

The first incident occurred when France’s Benjamin Pavard sustained a head injury following a collision with Germany’s Robin Gosens. Pavard received treatment for several minutes before being given the green light to continue playing. Pavard later revealed that he was knocked out for 10 to 15 seconds. Controversially, UEFA confirmed that the correct concussion protocols were followed.

Only six days later, Austria’s Christoph Baumgartner received a blow to the head, went back on the pitch and was then substituted. His coach later admitted that Baumgartner had been experiencing dizziness. 

Russia’s Danila was the third player in the tournament to collapse to the ground following a head injury. He was cleared to play on but was withdrawn at half time. These incidents demonstrate that football authorities need to do more to protect players’ health.

Cardiac conditions too are highly significant here, being the leading cause of death in professional footballers. Data has revealed a prevalence of sudden cardiac death of seven in 100,000 football players.

Quick application of a defibrillator can improve a patient’s survival by 75 per cent. However, when Cameroon’s Marc-Vivien Foé collapsed during the 2003 Confederations Cup in France, it took six minutes before attempts to restart his heart began. The lack of awareness of the need for speedy care contributed to Foé’s death, but the incident spurred football authorities to implement changes to reduce the risk of cardiac arrest on the field.

The English Football Association has now increased screening frequency so that players are tested between the ages of 14 and 25. For incidents where cardiac conditions slip through the net, sporting organisations have pitch-side defibrillators and medical staff trained in CPR to help resuscitate a player if they suffer a cardiac arrest.

Player safety was brought to the forefront on 12 June 2021 when Christian Eriksen experienced a cardiac arrest during Denmark’s game against Finland. Thankfully, football authorities’ understanding of the need for urgent medical attention in cardiac emergencies helped save Eriksen’s life.

The Euro 2020 finals have shown that football authorities need to take further urgent action to protect player welfare and player safety. However, as Christian Erikson’s recovery happily shows, player safety can be achieved when football authorities apply the correct protocols and have appropriate medical equipment in place.

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Life after lockdown – what comes next?

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As we prepare to emerge from lockdown in less than two weeks, attention is turning to what the ‘new normal’ will be like. Margreet Wittink at Renovo Care shares some reflections from the pandemic and thoughts on what may lie ahead

 

The 19th of July 2021. More than just any date.

We all have certain dates that are important to us, like birthdays and anniversary dates. However, this year we have been governed by dates set by the government trying to get back to a normal life post-COVID.

We seemed to be going in the right direction but then the Delta variant presented itself. The infection rates started to go up again and continue to rise but with far less hospital admissions. Opinion seems to be divided on whether we need to remain cautious and wait or return to normal life whatever it may bring.  The British Medical Association is calling for caution and is asking for ongoing use of face masks and new ventilation standards.

The 19th of July 2021 will mark the fourth and final stage of lifting lockdown in England. It makes me reflect on the period since March 23 2020 when the first lockdown started.

A birthday present my son didn’t want. Being an essential worker continuing to drive to Hollanden Park Hospital on an empty M25 and A21, seeing a banner thanking those who continued to work which I appreciated so much. Taking staff temperatures which was thought to be needed for just three months but lasted so much longer.

The absolute low of the period? Losing a much loved colleague and being unable to pay the traditional respects. But never losing sight of the most important aspect of our work; keeping our patients at Renovo Care safe.

Will life get back to normal? But what is normal? Hasn’t COVID shown us all that life can change dramatically in a short period of time?

That is something that is all too familiar to our patients who come to Renovo Care for their neurological rehabilitation following stroke, traumatic brain injury, Guillain Barre Syndrome to name a few of the diagnosis we treat.

We know how important family support is to our patients and how difficult it has been for them to be at our hospital without seeing their loved ones regularly in person. The use of Zoom and Microsoft Teams has given us a way to be in touch and being able to share therapy sessions, but it has been a poor substitute.

Recently we have been able to allow family members, who take on a carer role, in again nearer the discharge date to work together to prepare for a smooth transfer from Renovo Care to home. This has made such a difference to them to know what can be expected when their loved one comes home following a major event that changed their life.

Normality. What will it look like? No more face masks or social distancing? Are we ready for it?

I think that staff and patients alike will welcome staff not having to wear masks. When one of our patients left, he actually asked one of the therapists if she could remove her mask for a moment so he could see what she looked like.

Not wearing face masks will allow us all to see facial expressions again which is so important for communicating with each other. Hats off to our speech and language therapists who had to adapt their way of working around the COVID restrictions.

Will our visiting return to the way it used to be? Successful neurorehabilitation requires 24-hour support of all the parties involved which includes family. Being able to get hugs, to be held and to be seen face-to-face by your loved ones when you are working hard to regain your independence is so important to keep the focus on the goals they are trying to achieve.

It will require a transition from staff as we’ve had a dedicated visitors’ areas away from our patient rooms and rehab facilities for such a long time now, that it will be a novelty to have visitors back in these areas again.

The 19th of July 2021; the final stage of England’s COVID lockdown roadmap. The final review will happen on the 12th of July following analysis of the latest data. The Delta variant is on the rise but so are the vaccination numbers. Renovo Care has had a successful vaccination programme for staff and patients.

It looks like it is really happening and here at Renovo Care we will be ready for whatever comes and will make sure that our patient best interests are at the heart of what we do. 

  • Margreet Wittink is head of therapies/ lead occupational therapist, at Renovo Care Group’s Hollanden Park Hospital

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‘Like bees collaborating in a hive, achievements in rehab should be shared’

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Achievement in rehabilitation should be shared and celebrated with supporters to help sustain and encourage progress, says Lisa Beaumont, whose own ten-year recovery from stroke continues with the support of family, friends and therapists

 

Rehabilitation works best when it is not undertaken in isolation.

Over the past month, I have been thrilled by the progress that I have made towards my goal to walk without a stick, my posture has improved significantly during lockdown and I have enjoyed walking in the garden in June’s sunshine. 

My progress has reminded me of the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”. I would like to adapt that expression to become: “it takes a village to deliver successful rehabilitation, many people have important roles to play”.

Just like bees cooperate in a productive hive, it is helpful for the patient to share their achievements with supporters, because their affirmation gives encouragement for renewed progress.

From the outset, I have been very fortunate that I’ve had the support from family, friends and therapists throughout my ten year recovery. 

An important feature of the rehabilitation platform Neuro ProActive is that it makes it easy to share a patient’s progress with  each of the key players in their recovery programme. For me, it looks like this:

My team is my neuro-physiotherapist, Jane Cast (neurorehabkent.com)

My representatives are my carers and sister. It is a bonus that I can keep everyone who is in my support bubble informed about my progress privately, by sharing photos and videos securely within the fully-encrypted platform.

Neuro ProActive is also a key player. Recently named as a Strategic Partner for UKABIF, we are now also part of the Criminal Justice Acquired Brain Injury Interest Group.

Prepared with assistance from Paige Gravenell (neurorehabkent.com)

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