Georgia's Breathe Sing for Lung Health Experience - Breathe

Georgia’s Breathe Sing for Lung Health Experience

Wed 27 Apr 2022

We were joined by Breathe Sing for Lung Health participant, at a recent talk with our supporters and partners at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. Georgia shared her journey with long-Covid and her experience of joining the Breathe Sing family. Project Engagement & Communications Officer, Jo Pelly wrote this fantastic case study on Georgia.

Georgia Prorock is the kind of person you’d want at your party, or to liven up a dull family Christmas. With her bright pink hair and infectious laugh, she exudes warmth, confidence and positive energy. Chatting to her about her life in early 2020, there is a clear sense of someone who was in control and where she wanted to be. Life’s twists and turns had brought her from Greece to Leeds, where she met and fell in love with her husband, John, and finally to London, where she began a successful career in market research. She loved her job, was working hard and enjoying a buzzy social life with her work family.

Then, in early March, she started to feel tired. Really tired, in a way she couldn’t explain. She didn’t think she could face after-work drinks, which was completely out of character. Disconcertingly, she realised she couldn’t taste the curry she was eating. As it slowly dawned on the rest of the nation that we were facing something extraordinary, it very quickly became all too real for Georgia. Within a couple of days, she couldn’t breathe and was in an ambulance heading to Guy’s Hospital, one of the first severe Covid patients they had seen. She was put into a coma for 6 ½ weeks, and her doctors didn’t know if she would survive.

When she was eventually brought round, her family were overjoyed that she was alive, but for Georgia, her battle to rebuild her life was only just beginning. Unable to walk or talk, and with no visitors allowed in the hospital, her sense of self was utterly fractured.

I had to learn how to walk and talk … having to learn everything again was horrific. It was the biggest nightmare for me … my journey to recovery was in a way a living nightmare … there were a lot of times that I was losing the battle.
Georgia Prorock

One of her darkest moments came at the point when she was finally moved out of ICU, one of the first patients to leave alive. “It’s a significant moment that always gives me the chills … all the staff, like how you see in the movies, were lined up clapping in a row.” For the exhausted hospital workers, it must have felt like a moment of hope, but for Georgia it was terrifying. “I was thinking, ‘How am I going to live? I’m half paralysed, I can’t talk, I’m not the same person and I may not be able to do anything.’” She had swelling on the brain, neurological issues and it was impossible to imagine how she would find her way back to her successful career, and the person she had been.

The journey back to herself

During her recovery in the hospital, she was offered the chance to join Breathe’s Sing for Lung Health group, supported by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity – which had moved from in-person to online during the early weeks of the first lockdown. And it was among these fellow patients, all dealing with their own lung conditions, and supported by Breathe’s singing lead, Cleo, that Georgia began to piece the fragments of herself together again. She felt seen, and that there was hope. It was tough at first, as she explains, “To begin with I found it very difficult. I couldn’t talk, I was losing my breath. I was getting really dizzy, even the little exercises that Cleo would do to relax your muscles or your belly to me were just impossible … but every day I was getting better and better.”

“Music is food for the soul”

She was amazed at the physical difference the sessions made – her breathing was easier, her lung capacity increased. In fact, a year later doctors told her that her lungs had improved by 10%. But of equal importance to her was the impact on her mental health, and she credits the unique power of music, and her “singing family” with leading her through the storm and back to herself.

Music is food for the soul, right? It was the most incredible thing that happened to me … it lifts you up, it’s just an overall feeling of happiness …  You become more confident; you can identify with other people … art is a feeling. It gets you in your gut, your mind, pretty much everywhere.
Georgia Prorock

In fact, when Georgia gave up the singing sessions for a couple of months, she began to regress physically and mentally, and her husband urged her to re-start. The first couple of sessions were difficult – “I was dizzy, I was losing breath” – but she persevered, and began to feel the benefit again. “Arts are the most wonderful thing to do because they are so good for your soul. It gives you peace, it makes you smile.”

A Moment of Peace

Unsurprisingly, going back into the hospital for her many follow-up visits was a traumatic experience, each time a vivid reminder of all she’d been through. But on one occasion, she encountered one of Breathe’s Resident Musicians playing the harp, and in that moment it changed her whole relationship with the space. Where she would usually be desperate to escape, she sat and listened. “It was so beautiful, and I sat there for quite a while, for about 40 minutes after my appointment and it felt so good. I thought, ‘this needs to be happening every day.’ … It made me cry with peace. I was at ease … I had so much anxiety … but my heart was elevating, it was stunning. I wanted to stay all day, but my husband was waiting!”

Georgia still attends the weekly Breathe Sing for Lung Health sessions and is moving closer and closer to who she used to be. She has been promoted at work and has a huge team. She feels that being part of the Breathe Sing family helps with “my whole wellbeing … You have no idea how much you helped me. I can’t even put it into words … you can’t actually put any value to that. It’s saving a life, it’s as important as that.”

A big thank you to Guy’s and St Thomas’ who fund our Breathe Sing for Lung Health Programme at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.