Coronavirus

Behind The Scenes At The Military's 'Unique' COVID Rehabilitation Centre

Almost 200 personnel have completed the course at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Stanford Hall.

The UK Armed Forces have been helping to rehabilitate a number of military personnel suffering with long COVID – a term used to describe the effects of COVID-19 that continue beyond the initial illness.

Forces News has been given a rare glimpse behind the scenes at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, known as DMRC Stanford Hall, at the course being run to assist military patients in their recovery.

Following coronavirus, some people find they are left with symptoms that last weeks or months, leaving them prone to bouts of fatigue with extremely low energy levels.

According to the NHS, long COVID symptoms can also include chest pain, problems with memory and concentration, insomnia, joint pain, depression and earaches.

For long COVID sufferers – like Warrant Officer Sarah Richard – even walking can seem impossible.

After the virus, her "heart was always racing", she suffered stomach aches, and for six weeks "struggled to get out of bed".

WO Richard has had daily help tackling her symptoms for the last two weeks as a residential patient at the DMRC in Nottinghamshire.

The recovery assistance is tailored to each individual and their specific needs.

"We've done the mobility side of things, that's sort of about getting all your joints moving again to help with the aches and pains," she said.

"We've been doing a lot of breathing exercises, activating your diaphragm that sort of thing, cardio work, trying to help us work out what our baseline is right now so that when we go home, we know the level of activity we need to be doing that's not going to do us damage," she added.

The course is unique to the patient and their specific needs and can include a number of exercises designed to help with both mobility issues and breathing.

So far, nearly 200 personnel have completed the course, with support continuing after patients leave the DMRC.

Lieutenant Colonel Sardar Bahadur outlined the phases of support on offer to those who are suffering from long COVID.

"So the first phase is the residential programme and then we give an individualised programme over three months," Lt Col Bahadur said.

"That's supervised in primary care by our GP colleagues and our physio colleagues and then we review at three months to see how they're doing."

The course includes breathing and mobility exercises to help prepare for a return to work.

Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Michael Robinson has also been suffering the effects of long COVID, after catching coronavirus twice while working at a London hospital during the pandemic.

He said he has suffered with "brain fog and fatigue" and "that constant feeling of threat" since getting COVID.

"You've got to look after yourself before you can look after other people," he said.

"For me, this has been that reset for that and allowed me space to relax, take time out, learn about my breathing, learn about how I stand, how I am, and my fitness, of course."

The COVID rehab course is unique to the military and has been developed using previous experience of post-viral illnesses seen on deployment.

"The whole of the world was concentrating on the acute illness. We've had the advantage of being a rehabilitation centre so we look at the chronic effects," Lt Col Bahadur said.

"As a result, we were able to compile something that's actually fairly unique."

So far the course has been highly successful, with more than 90% of those who completed it last year back at work within three months.