August 10, 2023
As a result of the COIVD-19 pandemic, our world has been forever altered, leaving behind a trail of immeasurable losses that have touched the lives of countless individuals and communities. The World Health Organization records over 765,000,000 confirmed cases as of August 2023, all in varying levels of severity. This global pandemic affected all of us, no community spared.
COVID in St. Louis
To address the St. Louis area long-COVID needs, the Washington University Living Well Center at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital designed a program to support this specific group of individuals. Much like other programs at the Living Well Center, patients in the Long-COVID Program learn how to approach health from a lifestyle perspective that honors their current health status as well as their goals.
Margie was a nurse for 51 years before COVID took her out of the profession she loved. She got sick in 2020 and had to leave work because of brain fog limiting her function which were no longer up to her standards for patient care. At such a devastating time of being forced out of the profession she had dedicated so much to, she found herself in the role of the patient. She saw many specialists, had countless tests, and tried every trick up her sleeve to feel better, but the lingering effects of COVID persisted. She found her way to the Living Well Center Long-COVID Program and her health started to improve!
"Worth More Than Gold"
Health is invaluable and often taken for granted until we're forced to face an illness or ailment that calls our health into question. Margie found herself with several lingering health complications from COVID, but turned to the Living Well Center for support. She joined a group of 15 individuals who were also suffering from the long-term struggles of COVID-19. She loved the sense of team and camaraderie that isn't always available in health care, plus the time for 1:1 conversations with providers when she needed it.
What could have been a lonely and isolating experience, much like the pandemic itself, instead created a community. Margie shared many compliments about the group experience, like learning from each other's questions and the encouragement of sharing a health journey with other people. "I can't say enough good about the program, everyone really makes you feel good." Margie shares the program increased her overall well-being, gave her a place where her voice was heard, introduced multiple approaches to her health, provided answers and encouragement, helped her gain strength, and build her cognitive function. "That's worth more than gold," she says.
More to Learn
Margie learned so much from her first program at the Living Well Center, she decided to enroll in another offering, a 10-week group session focused on improving overall health. She enjoyed the cooking demonstrations that included tasty sugar-free recipes and she felt included in the physical activity sessions that were customized for each person's abilities. It was always her goal as a nurse to treat the whole patient, so she has an extreme appreciation for the lifestyle approach to health at the Living Well Center.
During the 10-Week Health Improvement Program, patients can expect the following:
- Orientation and goal setting
- Stress reduction: Mindfulness
- Nutrition I: Plant-predominant nutrition intro, label reading, grocery shopping (with cooking demonstration)
- Restful and restorative sleep habits
- Nutrition II: Meal prep and decreasing ultra-processed foods (with cooking demonstration)
- The science of chronic pain and strategies for management
- Stress reduction: Mind-body techniques
- Movement for better health
- Nutrition III: snacks, desserts and mindful eating (with cooking demonstration)
- Gratitude, positive psychology, and emotional well-being
Since completing two programs, Margie has implemented some of the things she learned, "I call them little tricks to help me along." She appreciates the areas of her health that have been improved even though her pre-COVID self has yet to return completely. "Some people won't get back to their old selves entirely, but some improvement is so much better than none." Like Margie, patients of the Long-COVID Program can expect some health improvement and a wealth of resources to help them adapt. "They taught me how to conserve energy and still have fun!"
Perhaps her favorite life-long activity she has been able to return to is dancing with her husband. Their dancing allows exercise, mental stimulation, and motor function. We're so glad Margie and her husband are able to dance through life together once again!
Learn more about the Washington University Living Well Center.