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Months after falling ill with the virus, puppeteer Matthew Corbett had to go home for care

Sooty puppeteer Matthew Corbett first experienced symptoms of Covid-19 when he came to the cellar on his birthday to get a bottle of wine.

When he came up the stairs on March 28, just days after the start of the lockdown, the 72-year-old started to sweat, got dizzy, and was suddenly convinced that a big party was going on in his house.

“The house looked like it was full of people, they were very nice but didn’t speak to me,” says Matthew. ‘They looked a bit strange, because they were all gray in color.

“Then everything turned into a confused haze and my wife Sallie tucked me to bed and told me there were no people.”

The party was basically a hallucination, an early symptom of the virus. Within days, Matthew was hospitalized with a series of serious symptoms, including chest pain and pneumonia.

Seven months later, the ordeal made him feel breathless, tired, and so weak that he is no longer able to do the DIY and gardening jobs he used to enjoy.

Matthew Corbett, with Sooty (left) and Scampy (right). The Sooty puppeteer first noticed symptoms of Covid-19 on March 28

Matthew Corbett, with Sooty (left) and Scampy (right). The Sooty puppeteer first noticed symptoms of Covid-19 on March 28

Struggling to cope and with no follow-up from the NHS, he and Sallie reluctantly sold their beloved Cheshire home and moved into a West Sussex retirement home in August, closer to their three children and five grandchildren, where more help would be needed to be. at hand.

Matthew’s experience is not uncommon, says Professor Lynne Turner-Stokes, one of the experts who recently began drafting new, accelerated guidelines for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to help the thousands of people who need to follow. care and rehabilitation after Covid infection.

Matthew Corbett on 'Lorraine' ITV, September 2015

Matthew Corbett on 'Lorraine' ITV, September 2015

Matthew Corbett on ‘Lorraine’ ITV, September 2015

It is estimated that 300,000 people in the UK suffer from ‘long-lasting Covid’ symptoms that persist for months after their first illness and may differ from the original symptoms, although the actual number could be much higher as not all patients have sought medical attention.

Those recovering at home who have never been to the hospital can sustain organ damage without knowing it, warns Professor Turner-Stokes, director of the regional hyperacute trauma unit at Northwick Park Hospital in London.

“We are all surprised by the magnitude of this pandemic and its consequences – and we have not seen it end,” she says. “Some parts of the country come up with aftercare, but it’s usually very patchy.”

Matthew took over as the puppeteer of Sooty, Sweep and Soo in 1976, after his father Harry Corbett, who created the trio, suffered a non-fatal heart attack. The Sooty Show thrived on television and on stage, with the tagline, “Izzy Wizzy, let’s get started!”

He retired in 1998 at the age of 50, after selling the brand to the Bank of Yokohama for £ 1.4 million, and over the next 20 years developed a number of health problems, including type 2 diabetes. however, prepare for the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on his health. In the days after his symptoms first appeared, Matthew started to cough, felt weak, and didn’t eat for ten days because the taste in his mouth was “smelly and disgusting.”

Upon leaving the hospital, Matthew (pictured with Sooty) was overjoyed to be reunited with Sallie, who should not have visited him due to Covid's rules

Upon leaving the hospital, Matthew (pictured with Sooty) was overjoyed to be reunited with Sallie, who should not have visited him due to Covid's rules

Upon leaving the hospital, Matthew (pictured with Sooty) was overjoyed to be reunited with Sallie, who should not have visited him due to Covid’s rules

“On April 3, six days after I fell ill, Sallie called the doctor because my symptoms had worsened and was told to take me to the hospital because it was an emergency,” recalls Matthew. ‘I tested positive for Covid and was admitted to intensive care.

My memories of that time are blurry, but I sweated a lot and hallucinated – I kept thinking the bed was turning. My youngest son is a GP and monitored my progress and explained everything to Sallie and the other children. Despite the hallucinations, Matthew was fired three days later – a decision he now thinks was a mistake.

Covid-19 changed Matthew Corbett's life due to long-lasting symptoms

Covid-19 changed Matthew Corbett's life due to long-lasting symptoms

Covid-19 changed Matthew Corbett’s life due to long-lasting symptoms

“I think it was too soon because the hallucinations got worse,” he says. “I was convinced that Sallie, an ex-sister in a psychiatric ward, was trying to get me into a mental institution.

‘I absolutely believed she wanted to get me cut and I got a little weird, a lot of arguing. She said at one point that she was afraid of me because I was quite aggressive in pushing for certain facts. ‘

Finally, Matthew spent another six days in the hospital, where he was diagnosed with viral pneumonia, a complication of Covid, and atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm. He was given antibiotics for the pneumonia and medicines to regulate his heart.

Upon leaving the hospital, Matthew was overjoyed to be reunited with Sallie, who had not been allowed to visit him due to Covid’s rules. Despite not requiring further hospital treatment, his road to recovery was slow. When he tried to take his first walk to the village, “it was traumatic,” he says.

‘After a few steps I fell to my knees and had to pull myself up. Thank goodness no one saw me.

Matthew Corbett, with Sooty (center) and Sweep (left), celebrates 21 years with Thames TV 1990

Matthew Corbett, with Sooty (center) and Sweep (left), celebrates 21 years with Thames TV 1990

Matthew Corbett, with Sooty (center) and Sweep (left), celebrates 21 years with Thames TV 1990

Concerned friends and family kept ringing and wanted to hear that I was better. If I said, “Not quite,” they would say, “Okay, as long as you make an improvement.”

‘The problem was that I didn’t really feel better. A phone call that took too long would be, and still is, exhausting. I have to stop talking and lie down. I have a hoarse voice, with a lack of power and vocal control. ‘

In May, seven weeks after the first symptoms, Matthew began to become breathless and also suffered visual disturbances with exercise until August; his vision became “foggy and dark with red spots moving” as he walked uphill.

But despite these ongoing health concerns, Matthew received no follow-up care from the NHS. “I was not approached by the hospital,” he says. “Nobody seemed interested in me.”

The key to recovering from a virus, says Professor Turner-Stokes, is not to stop activities, but to do them at a “careful pace.”

“We need to know first if it’s safe for them to do it,” she says. “Then rehab and therapies like those offered by physical therapists come in,” she adds. It is hoped that the new NICE guidelines, expected by the end of this year, will provide this kind of help for a long time to come.

The plan is to establish a network of one-stop clinics for long Covid patients where they can undergo a series of tests and consult different specialists depending on how they have been affected.

And it can be complicated. As Professor Turner-Stokes says, “ Initially we thought Covid was a respiratory disease, but we now know that it can affect the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, brain, nervous system and muscles – you name it, Covid can influence it. ‘

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