Breathing easier after COVID-19
In 2020, Dr. Mark Howerter, emergency room director at Columbus Community Hospital, cared for countless COVID-19 patients. For several months he avoided illness himself, but that all changed during the final week of October 2020.
One day he developed a minor cough and scratchy throat, and within 12 hours, he had chills and spiked a temperature of 105 degrees. After a phone call to the hospital's emergency department and a rapid COVID-19 test, doctors diagnosed him with coronavirus.
He developed additional symptoms over the following days, and he was admitted to the hospital for 25 days. During his stay, he experienced severe pneumonia and developed blood clots and collapsed lungs because of complications from the disease.
When the complications subsided, doctors discharged him from the hospital, but his journey with COVID-19 didn't stop there. The lasting effects of the virus continued to plague him, so Howerter turned to his fellow medical professionals to help him on the long road to recovery. The included hospital's cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program.
"On my first day of the program, I could not get from the parking lot to the cardiopulmonary department without a wheelchair," he said. "My initial six-minute walk required several stops because of low oxygen in my blood and elevated heart rates."
Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation programs help people with cardiovascular issues, including those who have had heart attacks and coronary bypass surgery. They also help people with pulmonary problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory issues.
For Howerter, the cardiopulmonary department was important in helping him return to normal life after his long hospitalization. He attended pulmonary rehab sessions twice a week for 25 sessions.
"Those early sessions were very exhausting, but I could gradually feel myself gaining more strength and endurance with each session," he said.
At the end of the program, Howerter could complete the required workouts and wanted to do more. He said that without the program, his recovery would have looked significantly different.
"This was a very vulnerable time, and the rehab staff and my family were my lifelines," he said. "I've sent patients to the program before, but I didn't truly appreciate what they did until I became a patient. They are a great group of medical professionals!"