'We are here to help others'

Torbay Weekly

A Torbay couple have set up a special support group for people suffering from long Covid.

Their message to fellow sufferers is: “We are here to help you.”

Boris Johnson may have announced his ‘Living with Covid’ plan and a relaxation in rules and regulations after two years of lockdowns and isolation this week.

But for Gordon and Rachel Hext the nightmare began when they were struck down with the virus in October, 2020 - and it continues today.

The couple live in Paignton and have two children, Tommy, four, and two-year-old Gregory.

Rachel says: “I have started a support group for this condition as I haven’t found anything similar in our area.

“My husband and I contracted Covid in October 2020, before any vaccinations were available.

“We had a really nasty dose of Covid which left us bed bound for weeks and so poorly we were nearly admitted to hospital for our low oxygen levels.

“We have two young children, one was still a baby at the time and breastfeeding so the whole household was ill.  At a time when we needed help the most, we weren’t able to mix with anyone and it was a very frightening time.

“Since then, we made improvements in the early months, but have reached a plateau where we aren’t getting any better. The rest we needed in the early days just didn’t happen and so our recovery is painfully slow. We are now 16 months in and it’s exhausting and frustrating. We are lucky (or unlucky depending how you see it) to have each other for support, but there are many people who have no one to talk to or don’t know anyone also with Long Covid.”  

Rachel said that Long Covid is determined as Covid symptoms lasting 12 weeks or more and can also be known as post covid syndrome.

She says people diagnosed with Long Covid are reporting over 200 different symptoms, but the main concerns seem to be fatigue, breathlessness, chest pain, joint and muscle aches and brain ‘fog’.

She says: “Living with Long Covid every day is really difficult. Fatigue isn’t just feeling a bit tired, it is sheer exhaustion at times when even having a reasonable night’s sleep can leave you as fatigued as when you went to bed.

“You don’t wake up refreshed like you would have done normally. That’s before you even start on the other symptoms. It’s easy to overdo it and suffer in the following days so pacing is essential. “

She added: “Family, friends and colleagues find it difficult to understand why you might be able to do something one day, but not another. It’s because you have used up all your energy and haven’t had time to restore your energy levels. Some people aren’t able to return to work yet as they are still in the recovery phase.”

Rachel says it is estimated that there are 1.3million people living with Long Covid in the UK. Broken down , it is estimated there are between 1,000 and 1500 people in Torbay with it.

She says: “Although Long Covid affects people of all ages, even children, it largely affects people of working age and particularly women. T

“The long-term effects of Covid are only just being seen in the Bay and by starting this group, we are hoping to support our members by having a safe place to talk and share experiences and tips, to signpost to helpful organisations etc and hopefully make some friends who understand what you are going through.”

The group’s first meeting was held earlier this week at at Foxhole Community Centre in Belfield Road, Paignton.

“Our first meeting was a ‘coffee and chat’, a space to talk and share, but we are hoping to invite guest speakers in the future to help cope with ongoing symptoms etc,” says Rachel.

“ A warm welcome extended to any new members, our group can be found on Facebook ‘Torbay Long Covid Support’.”