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Prolonged COVID symptoms: Local Hospital wants to help

Prolonged COVID symptoms: Local Hospital wants to help
Posted at 5:17 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 00:13:46-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Local hospitals are finding new ways to support COVID patients with prolonged symptoms.

“It was scary.”

Steve Armenta was in the hospital for 62 days with COVID, and spent much of that time on a ventilator.

“You're laying there in bed not being able to breathe or move and you're like ‘how am I going to walk again, breathe again?’” Armenta said.

After he was discharged, Armenta still struggled to live and breathe normally. He decided to get help.

“Getting out of the hospital I was oxygen dependent, going through the program, getting off oxygen,” Armenta said.

He’s talking about the Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at St. Joseph’s Hospital. In the program, a team of therapists, physicians and nurses work with patients who have breathing problems.

“A rapidly increasing referral that we’re seeing is post-COVID patients,” said Mike Barker, Program Coordinator for Outpatient Cardiac Rehab.

Barker says many of these post-COVID patients don’t have preexisting conditions. So when they're discharged, they don't know how to deal with long-term lung problems.

“It’s overcoming that fear of shortness of breath that goes along with exertion, and teaching that basic stress-management skills on how to not panic and work with that because its a new feeling that’s foreign to them,” Barker said.

It’s a nine week program that’s specified to patient’s needs. Each session includes education and monitored exercise.

“Exercise, nutrition, medications, oxygen therapies, preventing infection, self-evaluation, and then the stress management piece is key,” Barker said.

Coordinators are still finding best practices for post-COVID patients. But many have already benefited.

“I really do contribute my recovery to this program 100% because I know if I didn’t go through the program, it would’ve been very hard to do it on my own,”
said Susan Adams, COVID long-hauler.

“I get shortness of breath but going through the program knowing the breathing techniques, how to slow my breathing down, slow my heart rate,” Armenta said.

Click here for more information on the program.