When Recovering From COVID-19 Takes Months, Not Weeks
BY HANNAH ROPP
Thomas Hawk’s battle with COVID-19 was anything but easy. The 72-year-old Bethlehem resident came down with the condition while on a hunting trip in Maine last fall, and his son drove him through the night to Lehigh Valley Hospital–Muhlenberg in Bethlehem. Hawk had a high fever, nausea, vomiting and cough. While he was able to recover enough initially to go home, he ended up back in the hospital within just a few days and ultimately had to be intubated.
“It was terrifying to watch because we just didn’t know what was going to happen,” says his daughter, Kelly Hawk.
After a month in the hospital and several setbacks, including a small stroke, Thomas was released from the hospital. However, his daughter says they were unprepared for his ongoing recovery. “When he came home from the hospital, he couldn’t do anything on his own. He couldn’t even remember how to make coffee. We had Post-it notes everywhere,” she says.
A new diagnosis
When Thomas came home from the hospital, he wasn’t the only one who needed care. Kelly’s mother, Thomas’ wife, also had COVID-19 and was hospitalized, but never intubated. Both were diagnosed with long COVID and are now part of the Lehigh Valley Health Network’s (LVHN) post-COVID rehabilitation program, which is designed to address long-term issues related to COVID-19.
According to Mark Knouse, MD, infectious diseases physician with LVPG Infectious Diseases, long COVID is not uncommon. “We are seeing more people with COVID symptoms lasting beyond four weeks, which is defined as long-COVID,” he says.
He says some of the most common symptoms associated with long-COVID include chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive issues or “brain fog,” joint or muscle pain, muscle weakness and dizziness when standing.
Knouse says it’s important for people with long-term COVID-19 symptoms to seek help. “The good news is that we have a program in place to help manage symptoms associated with long-COVID and help people return to better health,” he says.
Day by day
Kelly says that she and her family take her parents’ recovery from COVID-19 one day at a time and are thankful for the progress they have made through LVHN’s post-COVID rehabilitation program. “My dad is home and he’s able to do things like fish with his grandchildren. He still has moments, but he’s improving every day,” she says.
LVHN’s post-COVID rehabilitation program helps patients who suffer from long COVID by offering them individualized treatment plans based on the referring physician’s recommendation and their input. Treatment is often a combination of in-person and virtual care.
According to Kelly, her father’s treatment is focused on strengthening his muscles and resolving cognitive issues that resulted from his stroke and COVID-19. He sees his occupational therapist two to three times a week in-person.
Post-COVID rehabilitation is offered at all 50 LVHN outpatient rehabilitation service locations. Get more information about post-COVID rehabilitation.