Many people infected with the coronavirus show no symptoms whatsoever.
Some struggle to breathe and require hospitalization or die. Most suffer symptoms for two or three weeks that are either treated or go away on their own. But some COVID-19 "long haulers" have suffered long-term symptoms that linger with them for months or more.
Franciscan Health Dyer Hospital developed an outpatient rehabilitation program for those who suffered long-term effects from COVID-19 that in some cases have severely impacted their ability to function. Texas Roadhouse Founder and CEO Kent Taylor, for instance, committed suicide after contracting COVID, developing long-hauler symptoms and suffering severe tinnitus, or ringing of the ears.
Long haulers have suffered a wide range of long-term symptoms like headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, tremors, joint pain and blurry vision, as well as ongoing neurological issues like anxiety, confusion, sadness, irritability, difficulty sleeping and memory problems.
“The long-standing effects of COVID have become more apparent as the pandemic continued, and physicians are seeing a variety of complications that have been devastating to some patients,” Medical Director Kami Strong said. “Our goal is to return the quality of life that has been diminished by COVID.”
Franciscan's Long Hauler Outpatient Rehabilitation Program is led by a physiatrist, who does an assessment and determines what therapies are needed. Patients are offered physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy based on the patients' stamina level so they don't overexert themselves.
The treatment program also involves other trained specialists like psychologists, pulmonologists, cardiologists and ear, nose and throat specialists.
“These patients have a long journey to recovery. We believe our team approach provides the support they need to recover,” Strong said.
Palliative medicine physician Cathleen McGovern also will lead a support group that meets twice a month from 2 to 3 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of every month at Franciscan Health Dyer. Patients in the rehabilitation program can swap stories, share their experiences and support each other.
“People have PTSD from this. There’s debilitating exhaustion, depression and anxiety, and that’s where Dr. McGovern’s group comes in,” said Nancy Cutler, director of rehabilitation services and program development.
For more information about the rehabilitation program, call (219) 407-6307. To reserve a spot in the Long Hauler Support Group, call (219) 922-7159.