Some recovering COVID-19 patients will need rehabilitation or physical therapy

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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — As more COVID-19 patients are getting released from the hospital, some of them may need rehabilitation to recover after their long stays in the intensive care unit.

Mike McClurkin was released from Swedish Medical Center in early April, and now the recovering COVID-19 patient has a physical therapist who comes to his house.

“I still get a little bit winded if I have to do too much walking or climbing stairs, that type of thing,” McClurkin said.

The Littleton man was in the hospital for about 20 days and on a ventilator for nine, so he was extremely weak when he was released.

“It’s strength and endurance. I do leg exercises and upper body exercises,” he said.

Some other COVID-19 patients are going straight from the hospital to inpatient rehab centers like Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital in Aurora.

“It’s still kind of a long struggle ahead for a lot of people,” said Lauren Meader, an occupational therapist at Spalding.

Therapists say the recovering COVID-19 patients who were in the hospital for weeks have a variety of issues.

“These patients often times are so weak, first and foremost, they may not be able to even lift their arms,” said Emily Wilkinson, therapy manager and occupational therapist at Spalding.

At Spalding, the patients get a minimum of three hours of physical, occupational and speech therapy five days a week.

“They are very de-conditioned. Many of them have been on the ventilator for an extended amount of time, and so if they were to go home straight from the hospital, they would likely not be able to do things like put their clothes on, get in and out of their bed, brush their teeth or pay their bills,” Wilkinson said. 

Some patients have damaged lungs. Some may have cognitive issues.

“So potentially not knowing where you are, what the date is,” Wilkinson said. 

Others may need help with mental health, and the therapists are there.

“The rehab recovery post-hospital is lengthy and intense,” Meader said.

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