Raymond Blanc health: ‘I was a goner’ – chef used meditation to ‘save’ him from Covid

Raymond Blanc says we must save the British apple Orchards

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The self-taught chef spent four weeks in intensive care during his terrifying battle with Covid which left him with a 40 degree fever and his lungs 75 percent infected. As well as battling Covid, the 72-year-old also contracted pneumonia, a condition that causes swelling of the tissue in one or both of the lungs. Although typically caused by a bacterial infection, the NHS states that the condition can also be triggered by viruses like Covid – something that Blanc experienced first hand.

In an interview back in February 2021, Blanc explained more about when he was first diagnosed with the condition, saying: “I have no idea where I caught the coronavirus, but I knew that my immune system was really low because I was overworking.

“It started with a cough in December, a month after my 71st birthday, and then came on so fast. I took a Covid test, which came back positive.

“Within two days I was exhausted, I felt ice cold and yet I was shaking with a high fever and, when my oxygen levels decreased, I was taken to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford by ambulance in the middle of December.

“Of course I was scared — especially when I saw the scan of my lungs — and I realised I was seriously ill. But I also knew that I was in the best hands.”

Although surrounded by some of the best medical professionals, Blanc’s health kept dwindling, which made him fearful he might not be able to overcome the condition at all.

He continued to say: “I was on the point of going. I had pneumonia, I was in hospital and I was a goner.

“They wanted to put me on a ventilator and I said no, if I die I want to be aware of going. It was horrendous.

“The doctors and nurses were amazing, but you hear the screams of fear and pain. My lungs were 75 percent infected. I could barely breathe.”

In his desperation to beat the condition, Blanc turned to a technique he learnt years before whilst on a retreat in Thailand – meditation.

The chef went on to say: “I did something I’ve tried for 40 years and always failed at: I meditated, to concentrate solely on breathing. That was my goal.

“In the middle of the night, when all you could hear were machines beeping and patients in distress, I realised I could wrap myself in a sealed bubble of silence where I could totally focus on breathing as hard as I could and, at the same time, remove any negative thoughts.

“It was comforting to be able to take away most of the stress and anything that is sticky and nasty and to flick it aside. As well as the extraordinary care I was receiving, I think that’s part of what saved me.”

Remarkably, with the help of the wellbeing technique, Blanc’s condition improved after seven days, meaning he narrowly avoided going on a ventilator. “I won my fight. It was probably the happiest moment of my life,” he exclaimed in the 2022 interview.

“When you are so close to going you realise how precious life is. In that way it was the best moment. I had eight months of long Covid, but you know, human beings are made in a particular way and we quickly forget. I still do all my breathing exercises and yoga but the meditation is so hard. Because life takes back its pace.”

The NHS explains that those with mild pneumonia or Covid will typically get better after getting plenty of rest, taking antibiotics and drinking plenty of fluids. But for those who become severely ill, further treatment in hospital may be needed.

Although Blanc has managed to reclaim his health, for others Covid still remains prevalent. According to Government data from March 31, deaths within 28 days of a positive test were up 21.3 percent, standing at 1,097. There was also an increase of 11.6 percent in patients admitted to hospital.

The Office for National Statistics also released data back in January 2022 that estimated that a total of 1.3 million people (two percent of the population) are experiencing self-reported long Covid symptoms.

Long Covid can affect individuals in many different ways, but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • 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.

In a May 2020 publication, systematic reviews of meditation practices found that individuals with anxiety and depression reported an improvement of symptoms, as well as individuals “pain scores”. Researchers concluded introducing a mindfulness and meditation practice during this pandemic has the potential to complement treatment and is a low-cost beneficial method of providing support with anxiety for all.

For those unaware of how to meditate, the Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Foundation Trust provides this quick two minute mindful breathing exercise that is perfect for beginners:
Settle. Begin by taking a moment to settle in a comfortable position. You can close your eyes or look down to limit visual distractions.

  1. Relax. See if you can notice any areas of physical tightness or tension. That might mean dropping your shoulders, wiggling your fingers, loosening your jaw, softening the muscles around the eyes, or relaxing the belly.
  2. Check-in. Noticing where your body touches the ground or the chair. What does it feel like you have the weight of gravity pulling you down?
  3. Breathe. Inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth.
  4. Notice. Observe the pause in between each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the sensation of the air as it passes through the nostrils and mouth. You might even notice the belly rising and falling with each inhale and each exhale.

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