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Community physio key to rehab

A Birmingham man left in a coma after catching COVID-19 says that a rehabilitation journey based on regular physiotherapy and daily exercise at home has saved his life.

Retired mechanic Steve Hobbs was infected in March 2020 in the first coronavirus wave.

He spent 10 weeks in Queen Elizabeth Hospital – two in a coma. After being discharged, he had limited mobility and continuing symptoms of severe fatigue and pain, vertigo and loss of sense of taste and smell.

In an effort to boost his mobility and mood, his GP referred him to Birmingham Community Healthcare’s community physiotherapy team to work towards restoring independence and improving his physical and mental wellbeing.

“I was in despair,” says the 71-year-old. “My speech was impaired and inarticulate and I found I couldn’t hold a train of thought or do simple mental arithmetic, much less go outdoors and lead an active life. I felt my life was over.

“But there came a point when I felt well enough to at least consider the physiotherapy that was being offered to me; and the effect of that gradual conditioning was absolutely transformative to both my physical and mental wellbeing.

“I’d never used an exercise bike in my life but I persuaded the care home staff to let me have one – that was how determined I had become to sustain the improvement - and have built up to a daily session of up to 90 minutes every morning.”

With daily exercise, including some improvised gym and yoga in his room, Steve became strong enough to walk outside – a routine that he has continued with daily accompanied walks of up to three miles.

Efforts are under way to find Steve independent accommodation. And the lifelong classic car enthusiast reveals he has recently bought a 1956 Riley Pathfinder, which he plans to drive to Cornwall - a “spiritual home” filled with fond memories.

“I’m quite amazed how much my mental health has improved as a result of my physical health improving - I've even learnt some ballet moves!” Steve added.

“The correlation has been very clear. I’ve been amazed by the way in which my emotional response to music, poetry and prose has been heightened merely by cardio fitness. I’ve always thought such a response was the preserve of the young.

Steve’s regular physiotherapist was Sachin Kakkad (pictured), clinical team leader of BCHC’s therapy hub covering the south of the city.

He said: “Enabling people to live at home or in some other community setting is our number one goal. So it is a matter of assessing and providing whatever support is needed to achieve that.

“When I first saw Steve, his mobility was much reduced. He was walking with a frame after being discharged from hospital and wasn’t really able to look after himself.

“But it was very clear that he had genuine motivation to get back to normal daily life if possible – but we had to sort out his issues with posture, balance and mobility first. After that, the independence and improved wellbeing he has now is all down to his own motivation. He’s a great example of what can be achieved with the support of physiotherapy delivered in a patient’s home environment.”

David Disleyjones

Communications Manager
Communications Team

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