October 28, 2023
The ‘wrecked’ lives of forgotten long Covid sufferers
Nearly four years since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, you could be forgiven for believing the pandemic is behind us. But for many, it feels far from over . Close to two million people face a daily battle with debilitating symptoms of long Covid – the lasting symptoms of the virus that remain after the infection is gone – with some now housebound, unable to walk and even partially blind. Alan Chambers, 49, and Allan Reeling, 76, are among those who have been grappling with the illness for years , having caught coronavirus in March 2020, two months after the UK’s first two patients tested positive for the virus. Mr Chambers went from being “a fit, healthy, working member of the community who would do anything to help anyone” to being “ill and isolated in our bedroom”, blind in one eye and no longer able to walk unaided, his wife Vicki said. The father-of-two also suffers from “intense” pain, “constant” headaches, chronic fatigue and an erratic heart rate. Just before he caught Covid , Mr Reeling, of Telford in Shropshire, was going to the gym five times a week. Now, among other symptoms, his issues with balance are so severe that he can “fall flat on [his] face” when he attempts to stand, he is “absolutely frozen stiff and exhausted all the time” and he developed a “howling” in his left ear that was diagnosed as tinnitus. He told The Independent : “It has wrecked the last three and a half years of my life, and it will wreck the rest of my life until the coffin lid is screwed. I wasn’t looking at circling the plughole [in a state of decline], but now I think I am circling the plughole. “I can’t see this getting any better. I’d like to see the end of it, but I can’t see any prospect of it. On a daily basis, I feel rubbish. It’s atrocious, debilitating and depressing.” As of March, an estimated 1.9 million people in the UK have experienced coronavirus symptoms for more than four weeks, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics. Of those, 1.5 million reported the condition had adversely affected their day-to-day activities. Meanwhile, a major new study led by researchers at Imperial College London has revealed that one in 20 patients have symptoms lasting more than a year. It comes as coronavirus case rates have shown an overall increase since July, with fears the approaching winter will bring a further surge in infections. Yet in May, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that coronavirus no longer represents a global health emergency, which was seen as a symbolic step towards the end of the pandemic. Dr Jo House, founding member and health advocacy lead at Long Covid Support , said the advocacy group now has 62,000 members, with about 250 more people joining every month. “In their words, they feel ‘forgotten, unheard, disbelieved, isolated, unemployed, disabled, immobile’. The emotional cost of dealing with little or no medical support is devastating,” said Dr House, who has long Covid, along with her husband, after both caught the virus from a neighbour they were helping in March 2020. Research published in The Lancet in 2021 revealed that long Covid has over 200 symptoms. Dr House said she had noted symptoms from immobility to hair loss to vision issues among patients and described it as “a disease that causes multi-organ damage and damages cells in every body system”. Speaking of the impact the condition has had on her and her husband life, Dr House said, “We thought we would die and wrote letters to our kids. It took around a year until we could get out the house. I am still only back at work 40 per cent, and our kids are still our carers. Six months in I could hardly get out of bed.” Despite her poor health, she and other medical experts wrote a review of long Covid in October 2020. The Covid Inquiry, which is examining the government’s response to the pandemic, heard this month that then-prime minister Boris Johnson labelled the condition “bollocks”. “We do feel forgotten,” said Rachael Illingworth, 37, who has been “debilitated” by long Covid for over two years and said she has had to resort to exchanging treatment suggestions with fellow sufferers on Reddit forums because of a lack of other support. NHS England admitted to The Independent that access to necessary support, treatment and care for long Covid patients is still lacking. It said there was “still more to do to ensure support is there for everyone who needs it”, so that patients requiring specialist assessment and treatment for long Covid can access care in a timely way. After being mildly infected with Covid twice, Ms Illingworth, of Basingstoke in Hampshire, said she has been left with serious fatigue, shortness of breath, and brain fog that felt like her mind was “wading through treacle”. Previously sporty and active, at her worst, she was struggling to walk up a flight of stairs and unable to catch her breath. She was even having difficulties cooking and getting off the sofa. After being signed off work for a month, she returned and told of a time she broke down in tears. “I stared at words and couldn’t formulate a full sentence. I knew what I needed to achieve, but I couldn’t move a box of text on a PowerPoint. I ended up in tears because it’s so debilitating – not just physically but also mentally. I have had to completely change the way I live my life.” Despite this, Ms Illingworth said it was a challenge to get doctors to believe or support her. She described being “medically gaslit” about what condition she had and the severity of it. The advice Ms Illingworth was given of merely needing to implement lifestyle changes is “sadly very common”, said Prof House. “Many are still being let down.” She said her patient surveys even showed that not being believed was worse for some than their long Covid symptoms. Personally, Prof House said she is among the patients who have been told their symptoms are down to anxiety. Mr Reeling said doctors told him: “There is nothing we can do about it. You just have to get on with it and learn to live with it.” There is no cure for long Covid and it affects everyone differently, with treatment to attempt to manage the myriad of symptoms offering the best hope for sufferers. Similarly, Ms Chambers, of Worcester, said: “We’ve fought so hard to get help, but no one does anything.” The family has been struggling financially, with Ms Chambers forced to work full-time while caring for her husband. She said she set up a support group on Facebook, Long Covid Support, to help her cope with the intense anxiety she was experiencing. Mr Chambers is among the 10 per cent of sufferers forced to stop working – at a cost of £1.5bn in lost earnings every year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, indicating the condition’s lasting impact on Britain’s economy. It is for people like Ms Illingworth, Mr Reeling, Dr House and the Chambers, as well as himself, that fellow long Covid sufferer Aaron Campbell, 29, has launched a GoFundMe fundraiser for a nationwide billboard campaign, with the first set to go up in Bournemouth this week. It adds to the increasing pressure being piled on the UK government, which has also so far received over 74,000 letters demanding it tackle the long Covid crisis as part of a campaign launched by The Long Covid Action Project. Mr Campbell said his life has been “entirely derailed” by the long-term effects of the virus, experiencing “dramatic” hair loss, headaches, fatigue, and increased heart rate. The 29-year-old described a “bleak” outlook for his future. “I used to have plans for my career and to travel, but I’m worried this might be my life now – just waiting for a treatment that might never come.” An NHS spokesperson said: “Over the last three years, the NHS in England has invested significantly in supporting people with long Covid, this includes setting up over 100 specialist clinics which have helped over 100,000 people with the long-term physical, cognitive and psychological effects of Covid.” Urging all those eligible to take up the vaccine or booster when offered, a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said: “We know long Covid can have a debilitating impact, which is why we are backing our world-leading scientists with over £50million to better understand the long-term effects of this virus and make treatments available.” Both the DHSC and the NHS urged anyone concerned about long-lasting symptoms to get in touch with their GP or to visit the NHS 'Your Covid Recovery' website for further advice on the support available.
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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