Northern Ireland news

Covid-19 Recovery Service set up to help survivors of virus

Pauline Millar, NI Chest, Heart & Stroke's Head of Respiratory Services (pictured centre before social distancing guidelines were imposed), said people who have survived coronavirus are "suffering the physical effects as well as the mental fallout of having been through such a trauma".
Marie Louise McConville

A leading charity has established a community support service for survivors of coronavirus.

The Covid-19 Recovery Service, set up by NI Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS), will help people deal with physical and psychological problems caused by the illness and help build up their lung and general health.

It will initially provide the service by phone, video call and internet but as lockdown restrictions are relaxed, it is hoped face-to-face interactions will be possible.

One of the first to benefit from the new service is prominent solicitor Niall Murphy, who spent weeks on a ventilator after contracting the virus.

He is still recovering slowly at home and has been unable to return to full-time work.

Mr Murphy 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."

Pauline Millar, NICHS's head of respiratory services, 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," she said.

Respiratory consultant Dr Paul McKeagney said: "I've been seeing Covid-19 patients throughout the pandemic, ranging from very mild cases to those with severe disease who have required a stay in ICU.

"In the recovery stage, breathlessness when walking is a particular issue.

"There are also other long-term effects, because the infection makes the blood stickier, leading to clots in the lungs and other organs.

"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".

Covid-19 survivors can be referred to the recovery service in the first instance by a medical professional, or can self-refer by emailing chestsupportni@nichs.org.uk.

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