Local businessman Rob Martin is back walking his dog after recovering from COVID-19. All thanks to video physiotherapy sessions from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.
Fifty-four-year-old property developer and office equipment supplier Rob loves nothing more than taking his English Springer Spaniel Chloe for long walks with his partner Kathryn.
Rob was admitted to the University Hospital of North Tees in March after struggling with his breathing. Diagnosed with COVID-19, Rob was sedated and spent the next three weeks on a ventilator. Waking up in Darlington Memorial Hospital with no memory of the previous three weeks was a complete shock.
Rob said: “My niece is a paramedic and she made me call 111 for advice when she realised how bad my breathing was.
“I was at North Tees and it all happened so quickly. I had time to text my partner Kathryn and tell I was about to be sedated. The next thing I was waking up and being told it was three weeks later and I was now in Darlington.
“I can’t remember a thing apart from some very real, quite scary dreams. Found myself a little paranoid when I first woke up to be honest. I wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t.
“I can’t thank the staff at both hospitals enough for what they did for me. They saved my life.”
On returning home, Rob struggled with simple tasks such as walking up the stairs. His regular six mile walks with Chloe were clearly out of the question.
The Trust referred Rob to the community integrated assessment team and received an initial assessment in his own home from physiotherapist Tom McCourt.
Tom said: “Rob and I discussed how best to make sure he received the physiotherapy support he needed, but also kept him safe.
“We agreed on video consultations, where I can deliver the session via our laptops.
“Rob’s aim was to get back out with his dog. But when we first met he could only stand up and down from a chair six times in 30 seconds. He needed a walking frame to get around the house.
“We had weekly sessions via Virtual Consultations. Plus, I sent Rob an exercise programme to work on when he was alone.
“We worked together for 4 weeks and I was thrilled to see he’s now managed a two mile walk with Chloe!
“Bringing community therapy into the digital world is a fantastic achievement. I was able to watch and advise Rob on his exercises and make sure he was doing them safely and effectively.
“Rob worked really hard and his recovery has made all the effort worthwhile.”
Recently completing a two-mile walk with Chloe and Kathryn was a personal triumph for Rob.
Rob commented: “I was really weak while I was recovering.
“I’d lost 40% muscle mass while unconscious. Even opening my mouth to eat was a struggle.
“Tom was brilliant. Just fantastic.
“I used to spend £40 for an hour’s one-to-one physical training, and Tom was just as good!
“His routine was perfect. I just took it day by day. When I first woke up, my legs were like jelly. Even when I came home I couldn’t walk the length of the drive without help.
“But after a while I was much stronger and more confident.
“I’m now averaging 5,000 steps a day and I managed my first proper walk.
“Walking two miles with Kathryn and Chloe was great. We went at a slow pace, and I loved every second. I knew it about it the next day though, but it was worth it!”
Rob is now backing North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s call for people to practice physical distancing and remain indoors except for exercise, essential work or grocery shopping.
“I was fit and healthy”, said Rob. “It’d been 25 years since I was last in hospital and seven years since I’d been to my GP. But it got hold of me and wiped me out.
“No one likes being cooped up. But if it’s a choice between staying home or going through what I went through, it’s not choice at all.
“Just stay home and stay safe.”
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s virtual consultations use Attend Anywhere software. The secure video consultation platform allows the patient to see and speak to the clinician from their own smartphone, tablet or laptop.
The Attend Anywhere video appointments are currently available for gastroenterology, family health, psychology, physiotherapy, paediatric physiotherapy, paediatrics, geriatric and stroke medicine, community integrated assessment team, community stroke team, wheelchair service, orthotics, MSK Service, obstetrics and gynaecology, orthotics, Childrens and adults speech and language.
Patients have freedom of choice to access the virtual consultation or to attend a traditional appointment if preferred.