Hundreds of Hawke’s Bay people are struggling to bounce back to normal after having Covid 19 and two key Allied Health workers are focused on this in very different ways.

Kate Te Pou

Kate Te Pou

Kate Te Pou, nurse practitioner at Te Whatu Ora Te Matau a Māui is part of the Covid Community Outreach Service which provides support to whaiora/patients when further assessment is needed to help manage their health at home.

People are referred by their GP and then assessed by the Outreach team who determine if they need to see a nurse practitioner, an allied health professional or another service for either an acute Covid infection, post-Covid syndrome or Long Covid rehabilitation.

Te Pou says most of the referrals coming through are people at risk of complications from their symptoms or who have underlying health conditions.

“I provide an at-risk assessment in the person’s home, via telephone or at a primary care facility. I’m definitely seeing more people with Long Covid – which is defined as having symptoms more than 12 weeks after the initial Covid 19 infection.”

Te Pou says anyone who has had Covid can develop Long Covid.

“Women aged between 30 and 60 and those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease appear to be at a higher risk. However, your likelihood of getting Long Covid is reduced by vaccination – so vaccination remains our best defence,” she says.

The majority of people referred to Te Pou are suffering from shortness of breath, chest pain and palpitations with associated anxiety.

“Some people are struggling to concentrate at work due to brain fog or suffering from fatigue that sends them back to bed for an afternoon nap and despite napping they never feel refreshed or recovered.”

Te Pou says it’s not just physical activity that triggers fatigue but also cognitive thinking and emotions, so an enjoyable afternoon with whānau could also leave someone fatigued.

“Fatigue is leaving many people feeling overwhelmed and frustrated as most had previously been able to do their daily activities, work or even attend the gym, without concern. Now simple tasks have become exhausting.”

Te Pou says rest is the best way to get over fatigue and pacing your days – so doing what you ‘need’ to do one day but leaving the things you ‘want’ to do for the next day.

People struggling with breathlessness need to remember the “three P’s: pause, position, and pursed lips – known as recovery breathing, ” she says.

“Look at rugby players after they’ve scored a try, they pause to catch their breath, they often bend forward at the hips to allow more oxygen in and really suck the air in with pursed lips.”

Tom Eckett

Tom Eckett

Tom Eckett is Allied Health’s new Covid 19 Educator at Te Whatu Ora – Te Matau a Māui, Hawke’s Bay.

A former senior physiotherapist in the UK during the first wave of the pandemic, he spent long days at Leeds General Infirmary in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) working to improve patients’ breathing difficulties and ease their discomfort.

Now in New Zealand, he soaks up all things Covid-related, digests it and passes on the key information to colleagues.

Eckett says Hawke’s Bay clinicians are now managing patients with acute Covid 19, lingering symptoms and Long Covid.

“The research suggests that people who try to push through their symptoms are more inclined to suffer from Long Covid.”

He says over 200 symptoms have now been identified for Long Covid, but sadly there is no diagnostic tool yet. The most prevalent symptoms remain breathessness, fatigue and brain fog.

He says the good news is that research suggests just five to 10 percent of Omicron sufferers will get Long Covid, while it was up to 30 percent of people who had the Delta variant.

Eckett believes his experience during the first wave of the pandemic in the UK has equipped him well for his current role.

 “When the pandemic first struck in the UK it was like nothing I’d experienced before.”

In the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Covid 19 ward, Eckett worked with some very complex respiratory patients who were very unwell.

“The most at-risk populations were people with underlying health issues. However, healthy people were sometimes hit just as hard by the original Covid 19 strain – I remember a young, fit triathlete on the ward and wondering how he ended up there! Fortunately, he made a full recovery,” he says.

“It was a busy time with hundreds of Covid 19 patients. You needed to be adaptable and really work as a team in a fast-paced environment.

“I found it was the little things that made a big difference, like building 10 minutes into your time with a patient to set up a video call with family who weren’t allowed to visit.”

Eckett says he learned a lot in the height of the pandemic, but is pleased he made the move to Hawke’s Bay.

“I was envious of my friend living a lockdown-free life in New Zealand so I converted my degree and moved over. I had a few months without face masks which was bliss, but it also felt strange having come from full days in PPE. Covid followed me a few months later.”

Anyone wanting to find out more about managing post-infection symptoms or Long Covid can contact their GP or read more online at Te Whatu Ora Guide to self-management for COVID-19 illness.

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1 Comment

  1. I’m not a conspiracist and have been double vaxxed with the conventional Novovax, but it strikes me as strange that in NZ and globally no-one seems to have considered that the symptoms of long Covid are some of the same symptoms reported by those who had the Pfizer vax….

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