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Idris Elba health: Star was ‘humbled to be alive’ after ‘traumatic’ health battle

BRIT Awards: Idris Elba presents Album of the Year

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With the aptly named Idris Elba’s Fight School repeating again tonight on BBC Two for those who missed it, viewers are reminded of the star’s ability as a kickboxer, which he documented in a previous documentary Idris Elba: Fighter back in 2016. The star’s tough-guy persona has frequently translated onto the screen having appeared in American Gangster, Luther and multiple Thor films. Back in 2020 Elba faced a new kind of invisible enemy and after a battle remarked that he was “humbled to be alive”.

Both the actor and his wife Sabrina Dhowre tested positive for Covid in the early outbreak back in 2020. Although luckily being able to overcome illness and fever, when reflecting on the ordeal, the 49-year-old actor said that he was “lucky to be alive and thankful for being able to kick” the virus.

Unlike the millions of others who caught the virus and suffered from physical symptoms, Elba revealed that he was asymptomatic, meaning he showed no symptoms whatsoever.

At first this seemed like the best outcome, with the actor releasing a video announcing his positive result, but reassuring fans there was “no panic”. During the video he said: “I feel ok, I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus.

“Stay home people and be pragmatic. I will keep you updated on how I’m doing. No panic.”

However, four months prior to testing positive the actor spoke out again, this time focusing on the damaging effects the virus had on his mental health.

During an interview he was reported saying: “I was asymptomatic so I didn’t get the major symptoms everyone else got. Mentally, it hit me very bad, because a lot was unknown about it.

“I felt very compelled to speak about it, just because it was such an unknown. So the mental impact of that on both myself and my wife was pretty traumatic.

“I needed the lockdown to try to get over it. And it turns out the world actually probably needed the lockdown, too.”

As an asthma sufferer and his older age, the actor’s fears for Covid were made even worse. When speaking in an interview, Dhowre also confirmed her husband’s fears, she said: “He has asthma. He is older. It was really scary.

“At the time that we got sick, the media was pushing hard on how dangerous it was. At one point, Idris really thought that this could be the end.”

Speaking not only for her husband but her experience as well, Dhowre added: “That kind of unsureness about what’s coming next leaves you with a bit of anxiety.

“But having been sick and being okay also now gives you this new lease of life: I want to be super appreciative of everything.”

Approximately two years on from when the couple were first diagnosed with Covid, effects are still being felt around the UK. Most recently the NHS invited those eligible to book a Spring booster vaccination, making it some individuals fourth time.

Arguably the biggest challenge facing individuals now is the impact of long Covid, which is affecting two million Brits.

This growing figure coupled with the “postcode lottery” individuals are faced with when trying to get treatment, it seems difficulties connected to Covid are far from over.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) recently spoke out saying that treatment for long Covid varied hugely with some services treating it as a physical condition, but others as psychological.

The union also highlighted long waits in parts of England, which has a network of specialist clinics. It warned that patients in Scotland and Wales may be missing out because of a lack of dedicated clinics.

The most common symptoms that individuals are seeking support for, according to the NHS, include the following:

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Pins and needles
  • Joint pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Tinnitus, earaches
  • Feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • A high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • Rashes.

For some, symptoms are so bad they have been forced to give up work and succumb to the “life-limiting” condition that researchers are still looking into.

In the past six months up until April 2022, UK-based charity Asthma + Lung UK saw demand for its long Covid support double, as some struggled to get referred to specialist clinics. People were becoming increasingly desperate, even enquiring about buying oxygen to help with their respiratory symptoms, which can be extremely dangerous without a prescription.

Sarah Woolnough, CEO of Asthma + Lung UK, commented: “Coupled with a lack of support and long wait times for specialist care, hundreds of thousands of people are turning to charities like Asthma + Lung UK, desperate for vital advice and support. The government must invest more to find new possible treatments to help people with this new and unpredictable condition to get their lives back on track.”

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