Cork treatment that’s a cure for Long Covid

A West Cork man talks about his ordeal with Long Covid, and how a treatment available in Bandon has turned his life around
Cork treatment that’s a cure for Long Covid

A demonstration of the treatment for Long Covid sufferers at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Centre in Bandon.

A WEST Cork man who had never missed a day of work in his 25-year career, was left completely debilitated by the impact of Long Covid.

But now, thanks to the incredible benefits he’s got from visiting Bandon’s Hyperbaric Oxygen Centre, he’s almost back to full health.

And the man, who does not want to be named, wants others to know about the facility, which is the only one of its kind in Munster and is run entirely by volunteers.

The 47-year-old is only one of many who are using hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which drastically elevates oxygen delivery to the tissue, in their bid to recover from Long Covid.

His wife, a nurse, got Covid in January, 2021, but his test returned negative and he remained asymptomatic.

“However, around three months later I began to feel extremely tired,” he recalls. 

“I was used to run a few kilometres every evening after work and there was one night that one of my friends actually had to give me a lift back home, I was so weak. After that I got steadily worse by the day.”

Following a visit to his doctor, he was found to have seriously high blood pressure, and was in danger of having a stroke. He developed chest pains and suffered a cardiac episode while undergoing a stress test in hospital.

“That was last May and I was in and out of hospital a few times before the consultant diagnosed with me with Long Covid. I obviously must have had Covid without realising it.”

Over the coming months, the dad-of-three was so tired that he literally couldn’t walk from his front door to his gate: “Or if I did, I wouldn’t be able to walk back up.

Volunteers Hilary Crowley and Margaret Wilmot demonstrate the treatment for Long Covid sufferers at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Centre in Bandon
Volunteers Hilary Crowley and Margaret Wilmot demonstrate the treatment for Long Covid sufferers at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Centre in Bandon

“I went from being able to run 5km, hold down a demanding job, and a busy lifestyle in January, to not being able to even walk 300 yards without collapsing by May.

“Everything was a struggle. If I went to a match I’d have to stay in the car, or park nearby. If I went to the shops I’d have to bring someone with me so I could lean on them to get back to the car. I had to plan every journey in advance.”

Some days he felt much improved, but he could never predict when he’d be hit again by fatigue.

“Sometimes, I’d feel like my battery was up 80%, and then, in a minute, I’d be back down to zero, without warning.

“If I felt good enough to do something like cut the grass, I’d be totally floored the next day.”

He was off work in all for three months and has so far only been able to return part-time, but he’s making great progress now.

Bandon Hyperbaric Chamber was set up 23 years ago by local man Liam Deasy. A Multiple Sclerosis sufferer, he found his health was much improved after using such chambers while on holidays in Wales.

With the help of a local committee, a fundraising drive was launched and the chamber was established in Bandon. To date, a total of €700,000 has been raised to run the service, which is operated entirely by volunteers.

Based in the Town Hall, it comprises two chambers where people breathe in pure oxygen instead of the 21% found in normal air, and at a pressure that radically increases the amount of oxygen that dissolves into the bloodstream and the body’s tissues.

As well as Long Covid sufferers flocking to the unit, it’s more typically used by those with sports injuries, people with MS, those recovering from strokes, getting cancer treatments, or divers with decompression sickness.

The West Cork man I spoke to said: “My wife heard that her nursing colleagues were going to the Hyperbaric Chamber in Bandon for Long Covid, so I decided to give it a go last October.

“I started going twice or three times a week for around five or six weeks and immediately noticed a huge improvement. It was incredible.”

He says he now feels around 90% better and urges anyone in his situation to give the oxygen treatment a go.

“It’s fantastic service, all volunteer run, and so affordable at just €20 a session,” he said.

Judging by the accents he said he hears when he’s having a session, people are travelling from all over the country to reap the benefits.

Robert Wilmot, chair of Bandon Hyperbaric Group, said they are seeing more and more Long Covid sufferers, including a 35-year-old man who travelled to Bandon from France and stayed for a month.

“The hyperbaric chamber near him was €500 a session, while another was only available to those with MS. He got excellent relief – when he came first he was only walking for a quarter of an hour, and at the end of the month he was up to two hours.

“Since after the second wave (of Covid) we’ve been seeing people aged 10 up to those in their 60s with Long Covid, including nurses from all over the country who couldn’t otherwise have gone back to work.

“People are reporting great relief from headaches, low energy, joint pains and breathlessness,” added Robert.

Various clinical trials are underway in Europe on the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for Long Covid.

The West Cork man who attributes the treatment to his recovery added: “I was so healthy, I barely used to get a cold. I was the very last candidate you’d think would get this.

“When the chamber was first set up, no-one could have predicted it would be used for Long Covid sufferers, but I’m just so grateful it was available to me.”

Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 15 in The Echo: We talk to a Long Covid case and find out about a support group for sufferers.

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