Looking at these two photos of Sarah King side by side, one taken when she was struggling with serious symptoms from Covid-19, and the other taken on her first day back at work more than a year later, it’s clear to see the huge difference.
And your donations helped her get to where she is today.
The London Fire Brigade firefighter, 43, was unable to work for more than 12 months after getting the virus, as her symptoms worsened and it developed into Long Covid, but she says she’s slowly begun to recover and feel herself again more recently.
As part of that journey, she attended our Covid Recovery Programme at Marine Court at the end of last year – something she says helped her learn to pace herself and come to terms with her symptoms, as well as improving her overall wellbeing.
“I got Covid on January 2, 2021, and then 12 weeks later it was diagnosed as Long Covid,” says Sarah. “I was very ill with it. I wasn’t hospitalised but I was struggling to breathe and in bed for days on end. I probably should have been in hospital, but I really didn’t want to go.
“I couldn’t eat for days and I couldn’t get out of bed for over a week. I’d be in and out of consciousness throughout the day and just surviving on tea with sugar in, just to get something in.
“Then when I was able to get out of bed, I found when I came downstairs to try and make a cup of tea, I was so breathless – it was like my lungs were the size of walnuts. You can’t get enough air in. I was like that for quite a while.”
After a couple of months, Sarah says she tried to start going outside on walks but found after a few minutes she’d be breathless and unable to continue.
“I was told to try and build it up, but I found the more I did, the worse I got. I was just making myself more ill,” she adds. “One walk and it would put me back in bed for three weeks…
“I’m very active usually. I did the London Duathlon a couple of years ago, I played tennis regularly, I did spin classes two or three times a week and jogged regularly.
“With the Long Covid symptoms, there were also changes to my emotional cycle – just so many symptoms – and I still have a lot of them, but they’re reduced and not so severe.”
Sarah has two children, aged eight and 11, who she was unable to play with. Even board games proved too much for her at times.
She adds: “My husband was doing all the house work, taking the kids to school, picking them up from school, plus we’d also just got a new puppy that needed walking.
“The dog was supposed to be for me, to train as a search and rescue dog, but obviously I’ve been unable to. It was real hell… I went from being really active to being bedbound for months and months.”
It was several months later, towards the end of last year, that Sarah thought to get in touch with us to see if we could support her in any way.
“I’ve always known about the Charity but I’ve never felt that I’ve needed to use it up until now,” says Sarah. “My station commander was a station rep for you and he said, ‘definitely give it a try’, but I thought, ‘yeah but they won’t be able to help me because it’s Long Covid’.
“Then when someone else had support for a knee injury, she said ‘you know they’re doing a Long Covid programme?’ I said, ‘really?’
“I contacted you guys and I thought, wow, brilliant. Luckily there was availability at Marine Court and I went last December.”
Our Covid Recovery Programmes are aimed specifically at anyone struggling with ongoing symptoms – or ‘Long Covid’ – following a Covid-19 diagnosis.
“The Fire Fighters Charity primarily taught me to pace myself,” says Sarah. “It really helped me build my confidence… from those really long days at home, I went to the centre where there were set activities all day – but they were so well paced and so varied.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re not going to get better because it’s so slow… but you ARE moving forwards.”
“There was the theory, practical and social elements but with regular breaks in between. Then the food was really healthy which obviously helped maintain our energy levels too.
“I wouldn’t have been able to go back to work if I didn’t reach out to the Charity. I just don’t think I’d have had the confidence in myself to be able to deal with going back.”
Sarah was able to return to work part-time in February, just over a year after first resting positive, and will now build up from light duties.
“I can just see such a difference to where I was before the Charity’s help,” she says.
“I can walk the kids to school, I can play with the kids, I can do housework. I do still need to be really careful because the last time I relapsed was just at Christmas, so I’m still not 100%.
“It’s just so good to be back at work again… sometimes you feel like you’re not going to get better because it’s so slow, and it’s one step forwards and three steps back at times, but you ARE moving forwards.”
You can also join our ‘Share Your Story Group in MyFFC to chat to others who have received our support, or enquire about sharing your own story.