OVERCOMING LONG COVID IN DONCASTER WITH DARTS
Published 14 July 2022 at 5:30pm
Doncaster residents suffering with Long Covid or other long-term breathing-related health issues are being offered the opportunity to benefit from a unique programme which uses singing, breathing, relaxation and gentle movement to support their health and wellbeing.
Darts, an organisation which creates arts for people in Doncaster to improve lifelong learning, was awarded £39.9k from the South Yorkshire Mayors’ ARG Arts & Culture Fund to bring together its own artists and freelance artists to create two programmes: Breathe & Connect and Tuneful Chatter.
The artists used their experience of delivering years of singing and dance programmes and adapted the model to respond to the specific needs of Doncaster residents, both young and old, who have been severely impacted by Covid. The artists worked collaboratively with health professionals, to understand the health and social impacts of Long Covid before designing the programmes. Here we look at how the Breathe and Connect programme has benefited local people.
Breathe and Connect
Caroline was experiencing immense fatigue plus many other symptoms associated with Long Covid – including anxiety and depression, which was having an impact on her and her family and meant she could no longer work. Following the advice of friends and family that she needed to do something for herself, Caroline received a referral through the Long Covid Clinic and was able to access a six-week course run by RDaSH (Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust) and to find out about Breathe & Connect.
Caroline explains: “What Breathe & Connect has provided is a place where I can just be. I don’t have to have responsibilities. I don’t have to remember things. I don’t have pressure to do things or perform in a certain way. For this hour I am just here. I am just me. I’ve felt that really powerfully at Breathe & Connect, especially when we did the soundscape – I totally lost myself in that. I’ve not felt that peaceful in years.”
Following the sessions, Caroline said that she felt inspired and able to book onto a weekend music course as a direct result of taking part.
Another participant on the Breathe & Connect programme is Margaret, who is 72 years old and living with COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease / bronchiectasis). Living with this condition means that Margaret cannot remove mucus from her lungs, and this significantly impacts her daily activities. Getting out and about is severely impacted as she is unable to walk far or move quickly due to breathlessness.
Margaret has always been active so, following her GP’s advice, became involved in the Breathe & Connect project when it first started.
The sessions that Margaret has attended were mainly movement based, using relaxation, breathing, visualisation and very gentle movement and dance to strengthen mobility and improve breathing.
Margaret reported that she felt that the sessions had a positive impact and really helped to improve her condition and symptoms, saying that the movements eased and regulated her breathing and opened up her lungs.
Margaret said: “I sometimes feel tired or lethargic first thing in the morning and I feel energised when I dance. It gives me a mental boost and uplifts my spirit and my mood as everyone at Breathe & Connect is so positive. You know it’s okay to just dance here and not be pressured. My mood is raised in these sessions, like climbing a mountain of joy - everything else just waits outside the door and I pick it up on the way home.”
She adds:“This is the best thing I could ever do for my age group. I would advise anyone to try it. I’ve not got one negative thing to say about these sessions…They are very morale boosting and we laugh so much - but only with each other…If you can move, you can dance - all you need is the passion!”
Another ambassador for the impact of Breathe & Connect is Tania.
Tania is 58 and living with Addison’s Disease and Fibromyalgia. Addison’s Disease causes Tania to experience overwhelming exhaustion and lack of energy, as well as muscle weakness and headaches. In addition, the Fibromyalgia brings widespread pain: extreme sensitivity, stiffness, fatigue, poor sleep quality, cognitive problems, slow/confused speech and she is unable to regulate body temperature, as well as experiencing anxiety.
Tania explains: “I struggle to wake up and get going in the mornings. I am constantly fatigued on some level or another, which makes it difficult to do much without taking frequent breaks.
“With wonderful and caring conversations with darts dance artists over the weeks, I began to discover what small steps I could do to feel that I was engaging to some extent and finding joy in what I was doing. Visualisation was my first game changer. When I joined in with my eyes closed, I could dance with full visual and emotional energy. The natural tiny movements that my body made did raise my heart beat and made me feel that warm tiredness in my muscles that you get from happy exercise. I could dance like nobody was watching!”
Regular attendance at weekly sessions has made a profound difference to Tania and her ability to join in:
“After eight weeks, I am able to join in fully with the warm up, seated and have got to a reasonable level of energy within my limits and range of arm movements. This is followed by my enjoying watching the rest of the class, getting further joy from feeling the music, and beginning to believe that I will be able to join in the class more fully as time goes on. I feel that I am not judged by others in the group. They celebrate my small wins with me and now that they understand my situation, I feel that I am very much part of the group.”
For more details about Breathe & Connect or other programmes from darts in Doncaster visit the website https://wearedarts.org.uk/
For more information about the South Yorkshire ARG Arts & Culture funding visit https://southyorkshire-ca.gov.uk/explore/arts-culture-and-heritage
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