OSF Healthcare helps COVID-19 long haulers with physical therapy

COVID-19 long hauler
COVID-19 long hauler(25 News/Heart of Illinois ABC)
Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 10:32 AM CDT
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PEORIA (25 NEWS) - Many COVID-19 survivors are able to return back to normal, but for some, there whole life is different, even after the virus leaves their body.

Michael Davis is a COVID-19 long hauler and is doing physical therapy at OSF Healthcare’s rehab facility.

Davis said he followed the protocols and felt healthy until he was diagnosed with pneumonia in March and later, discovered it was from COVID-19.

“I had to climb out the shower, open up the door, open up the window, turn on the vent, I had to do everything,” Davis said.

“I told my wife, ‘I can’t breathe,’” he continued. “I said we got to go. I gotta call a doctor now.”

Davis spent a month in a coma and six days with a ventilator.

“They said ‘Michael, were gonna have to put you on a ventilator,” Davis said.

“The first thing that goes in my mind is I don’t want to die,” he added.

“When I got home, I was using a walker,” Davis continued.

“It took everything for me to walk from my driveway to my front door. It was hard for me to do that,” he said.

Davis is a senior technician who works on machinery, doing heavy lifting.

A former athlete and an active 55-year-old, Davis said he never thought he would find himself at this point.

“I’m looking at things I used to do without a problem and now it’s hard,” Davis said.

Physical and speech therapists work with patients to do simple task that they would do at home or work, like carrying or walking.”

Months later, Davis said he still has difficulty breathing at times.

Davis has been in physical therapy since April, doing box lifts and cycling for balance and strength.

Physical therapist Amy Junker said the recovery journey is long and varies from patient to patient.

But she said so far, she does see progress from the work they do with COVID long haulers.

“I work on their balance and I work on strengthening,” Junker said.

“We can see some progress like after two weeks, a month.”

Outpatient speech language pathologist Brittany Heidemann said most of the patients they see are unvaccinated and sees patients as young as 15 needing physical and speech therapy.

“Were just trying to figure out what that inflammation from the virus has done,” Heidemann said.

“If it has inflamed certain areas, certain nerves, that can impact swallowing, voice, speech,” she added.

After initially feeling hesitant about getting the vaccine, Davis now urges those who haven’t got it to get it.

He said even if someone gets a breakthrough case, the symptoms from the virus would be less severe.

“I do not wish this on my worst enemy because it’s horrible,” Davis said.

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