HERSHEY, Pa. – After spending seven days in the hospital recovering from COVID-19, Jacqueline Fair came home to a life very different from what she had known.
“When I got out of the hospital, my medication was changed and I was getting oxygen,” the 73-year-old booth said. “I was very limited in what I could do. It started a whole new type of life for me.”
Fair, who sees herself as a fighter, was shocked when she ventured downstairs to wash her laundry just a week later and then struggled to climb the stairs.
“I was trying to get back upstairs and thought I was going to die,” she said. “I had to stop midway to breathe deeply.”
On the advice of his breathing specialist, Fair turned to lung rehabilitation program on Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center, which has been in operation for more than 30 years. Since the beginning of the year, the program has offered targeted rehabilitation to all post-COVID patients who continue to have symptoms four weeks after their initial diagnosis – a service that had been lacking since the start of the pandemic, where only those patients who met certain criteria were eligible for the program.
“At the beginning of all this, our post-COVID patients had no idea where they were going. Now we know that pulmonary rehabilitation is good for them,” said Lilly Morales, head of pulmonary rehabilitation. “In January 2022, Medicare approved a new post-COVID diagnostic code that makes pulmonary rehabilitation available to a lot of patients in our community who do not have another respiratory disorder. “
During the 8- to 12-week program, therapists train patients about their conditions so they know how to prevent breathing problems and take control of their health. They also guide them through individually paced exercises that strengthen the muscles to improve breathing. They use treadmills, recumbent bikes, arm bikes, a seated elliptical trainer, free weights and a step box.