Rebekah Santaw and her husband
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Rebekah Finds Hope in Our Post-COVID Syndrome Support Group

Aug 11 2021
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Rebekah Santaw (pictured above) was diagnosed with COVID-19 just after Christmas 2020. While she didn’t have a case severe enough to send her to the hospital, she did spend 10 days dealing with some of the virus’s classic symptoms – fever, coughing, headache, fatigue.

Rebekah never imagined that months later, she’d still be dealing with some of these same issues.

“After the 10 days it seemed to be getting better. However, about a month after that, I started having this brain fog and trouble concentrating. I had more headaches, more dizziness and I knew something wasn’t right,” she recalls.

Rebekah went to see her provider and discovered she’s one of many former COVID-19 patients who are now suffering from Post-Acute COVID Syndrome, also referred to as long COVID. Luckily, her physician knew about a new support group our ministry had started – the first of its kind in upstate South Carolina.

Our Post-COVID Syndrome Support Group was launched just this year, to help address the persistent symptoms that plague some patients long after recovering from COVID-19.

“The benefit of group therapy is the sense of belonging and community that cannot be formed in a one-on-one setting,” Lori Smith, LISW-CP, explains. “It can be very healing to realize that you are not alone in your suffering and there are other people who can relate to your experience. This also helps reduce shame and self-blame.”

Each support group is led by a Bon Secours behavioral health therapist who teaches participants different coping skills to help with grief, anxiety and other feelings of distress caused by COVID-19.

“If you don’t take control over your body and mind, your life is going to be chaotic,” Marta Carvalhal, LISW-CP, DBT-C, CCTP, shares. “So, the group involves dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive behavior therapy – both of which are research and science-based. We look at the physiology of anxiety, depression, the symptoms of COVID and how can we improve them – how we can become the leader of our own body and mind.”

An important part of taking control is also learning to take care of yourself.

“In times of hardship or distress, self-care becomes even more important,” Lori adds. “Many people think self-care is synonymous with being selfish, but this is very far from the truth. Self-care is providing the love and care that your body and soul need in order to stay healthy. It is not based on the belief that you are more important than others, but it is based on the belief that you can only be happy when you learn to care for yourself.”

The support groups are small – between six and eight people – and each group has a different meeting time to help provide flexibility and accommodate more people’s schedules. Each meeting lasts about an hour and can be done in-person or online.

For those on the fence about whether to give the support group a try, Rebekah recommends giving it a chance, saying the things she has learned have been very helpful.

“I had an underlying anxiety disorder anyway, so it really helped me to learn more coping skills and to just take things day by day. And what do you have to lose? The things that I’ve learned in the group are helpful in everyday situations and everyday life and with common stressors. It’s great to help deal with a chronic illness, but I think it’s valuable information to have, period.”

All you need to join the Post-Acute COVID Support Group at Bon Secours is a referral from your primary care provider. For more information, contact Kayla Smith at kayla_smith@bshsi.org.

Also, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is the best way you can avoid severe illness and protect those around you. Learn more about our COVID-19 vaccine efforts.


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