Alison: “You were finally the light at the end of the tunnel after 26 months of hell”

Thanks to your kind-hearted donations, we were able to help Alison Waldron – a nurse who’s married to a West Midlands firefighter - on our Covid Recovery Programme, as well as with her mental health.

Recovering from Covid-19 can be different for everyone. For some, it can be a matter of days before they feel themselves again, while for others it can take months or even years.

And while many of us may immediately think of the physical symptoms such as overwhelming fatigue and brain fog, there can also be major repercussions on your mental health too.

Alison Waldron, 53, who’s married to West Midlands firefighter Mark, has struggled with all of those symptoms since testing positive for Covid in April 2020.

However, thanks to your regular donations, we were able to support her when she needed it most – with a visit to Jubilee House on our Covid Recovery Programme, as well as remote one-to-one counselling sessions.

“I was off for about three weeks when I initially had Covid, but the symptoms never really went away,” says mum-of-two Alison, who works as a Clinical Nurse Specialist – specialising in Parkinson’s disease – and helped her colleagues treat Covid patients at the height of the pandemic.

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“Then later in the year, my GP told me I’d had a bit of a breakdown… I’d gone back to work, I was working on the frontline with Covid patients, and I was exhausted.

“It was so difficult and I felt so low. I had all these physical symptoms that weren’t being addressed by anybody. I’m usually the sort of person that, you wind me up and off I go at 60mph… but that just went.

“I became very tearful, I was breathless, I was fatigued, I was losing my hair, I couldn’t taste or smell and I had all the brain fog. It led to really serious anxiety and depression and I was signed off for six weeks. That helped, but then I went back to work and really struggled again – nothing had changed.

“I’d have to leave all my problems at the door of the hospital, put my mask on and get on with it. I wasn’t addressing any of my symptoms and just making it so much worse.

“I’ve been nursing for 34 years and specialise in Parkinson’s disease, but it didn’t matter what your role was, how long you’d been in it, it was all hands to the pumps during Covid. Things needed doing, far beyond our normal duties.”

“I struggled from then for probably another 12 months, until September 2021.”

Alison was eventually signed off until January this year. It was around that time that one of Mark’s colleagues reminded them that she’s eligible for our support, and encouraged her to get in touch with us.

“My husband, about 18 or 19 years ago, had a motorbike accident and we went to Harcombe House. We knew about the support the Charity offers from there,” recalls Alison.

“I’d never considered reaching out before, but thank God we did. I had a video call within a couple of weeks of getting in touch and after the call I just looked at my husband and said, ‘wow’.

“It was then about five weeks and I was up at Penrith at Jubilee House on the Covid Recovery Programme. It was such a fast turnaround.

“I was worried before I went, concerned I’d get there and wouldn’t be able to do it, and also worried it wouldn’t meet my needs. But I was so wrong.

“There were five people in my group, all at different stages – but I’d had it the longest – and we all helped each other. There was a female firefighter in particular who was just my rock, we really bonded and we’ve kept in touch.

“We very much all used each other as sounding boards because while we were all different, we were all vulnerable and going through something. I would never have met those people if I hadn’t gone on this programme.”

Alison says the key tool she took away from the week was learning to pace herself, while taking time to relax with sessions like Tai Chi and guided relaxations.

“It’s like the whole week, and the follow-ups, have been tailor made for me. It was like I’d written the programme myself,” says Alison.

“I’ve since been offered 1:1 connect sessions from home with a remote psychologist, which I jumped at. She’s been so lovely and they’re really helping me.

“I’m also attending the Reset Programme at Harcombe House later in the year to focus more on my psychological symptoms – particularly as I’m now managing the physical side so well following Jubilee.

“Attending Jubilee House was finally the light at the end of the tunnel after 26 months of hell. I’ve still got Long Covid, but I’m learning to manage it so much better.

“I’m now back working full-time, but I’ve adapted my hours slightly, so I do four long days in the hospital and one day from home – which cuts out the long drive.

“I’m doing yoga every week and also aqua fit – the chemicals that those sessions bring out has replaced the anti-depressants for me. The Fire Fighters Charity has been absolutely amazing.”

If you’re struggling with your health and wellbeing, we may be able to help you. Call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820, make an enquiry online or register for MyFFC now and visit the ‘Access Support’ tab at the top of the MyFFC homepage.

You can also join our ‘Share Your Story’ Group in MyFFC, by clicking on the ‘Groups’ tab, to chat to others who have received our support or enquire about sharing your own story.