Cardiopulmonary Rehab Helps COVID Patient Recover
My name is Sue Karolczak, and I am from Brookings, South Dakota here. And I'm a retired registered nurse. And we love to travel. We love to go to the state parks. Last year, we finished off the Minnesota state parks, went to every one. And my husband walked farther than I did, but I was able to join him for most of those. We like that.
How long were you hospitalized with COVID-19?
I was in the Brookings Hospital for three days, and then I was in the Avera Hospital for probably another nine days so it was 13 days total. And I was blessed that I lived. At the time we were told 5% to 10% of the people that were put on the ventilator lived.
What long-term COVID-19 effects were you living with?
Friday afternoon, I was on oxygen 100% of the time. I had my walker, and I really could probably only walk 10 feet at the most without sitting down and resting. So it was amazing how much it just totally takes out of you. You know, you hear about the fatigue and I kind of would roll my eyes and go, "Oh, yeah, come on, really, is there such a thing?" And it really does and even yet. And we stay busy. I mean, we're trying to live and make sure that we get to do a lot of the things that we do. But you can go along so far and then it's like you hit this wall, and it's like, "Okay, you better sit down and put your feet up, and take a day where you just need to rest," and not being able to breathe very good.
Why did you decide on cardiopulmonary rehab?
When I went to see the cardiologist, you know, we discussed...and so I just said, "I can't imagine living like this. I can't just get up in the morning and wonder if I'm gonna be better or not," and I said, "What do you think about cardiac rehab?" And he said, "You know, the pulmonary one would probably be good. Let's give it a try. You know, take your pace, do what you can. But, yeah, let's give it a try."
What types of exercise were offered during rehab?
Well, the first thing that I did is the NuStep, the bike. And they like to do the machines 10 minutes and then they check you, and then you go to the next thing. So I was comfortable with the NuStep. I had done that before in rehab and so I kind of tended to say, "Well, maybe, I should just stay on this. And they're like, "Well, okay, well, let's just stay on it 15 minutes today, but then let's go try this."
So it got to where I was 10 minutes on the NuStep, 10 minutes on the treadmill. And then I even got on the row machine which I'd never done before, and did 10 minutes on the row machine. And once in a while I'd get on the regular bike and do the bike too. So the row machine was a big adventure. It's like how I'm gonna get on this and get off without falling. But I did it, and they were really good and encouraging. So they just take such good care of you.
How did cardiopulmonary rehab improve your condition?
And you could just feel getting stronger, you know, doing a little bit harder work, that kind of thing. By the second month, I was down to...we went from 2 to 1 liters. And probably the last month, five weeks that I was there, I was able to do it without any oxygen. In general, I feel much better. I am not at 100%, and, you know, we don't know if that day will come. We hope it does. It's come a long way from what it was.
What were your rehab goals?
You know, in February, I said to my husband...we had a granddaughter that got married in April, and so it was probably in February, I said to Dave, "I have two things―I wanna be able to walk down the aisle for her wedding without my oxygen, and I wanna be able to dance." I was blessed to be able to walk into her wedding April 17th without my oxygen; it was out in the car. And we were able to do a couple dances that night and so I really felt blessed there. But I really think that the rehab program helped me turn that over, even mentally, as much as physically to know that I could do things and not just sit there in my chair waiting to wonder what was gonna happen next.
What did you appreciate about the cardiopulmonary rehab staff?
I have to say the staff up there are just excellent, and they took such good care of me. The reason Ann, and Meredith, and Jesse, I appreciated that kindness, the openness. Everyone was so professional from all my ER visits. The doctors, the nurses, the respiratory therapy people, everyone, lab, day and night, they were just always there and answer the light.
Would you recommend cardiopulmonary rehab?
I guess my advice is for anyone that's had the COVID, if you're having respiratory problems, whether you're on oxygen or not, I really encourage you to come up and do the cardiopulmonary rehab that we have here. They just are so enthusiastic and so caring, and can really help get your life back into a more normal part, if there is such a thing as normal anymore.
Why do you recommend the COVID-19 vaccine?
I want everyone to know it is real. It's not fake and it shouldn't be political. And the one thing that I really encourage everyone to do is get the vaccine. And I know there's a certain percentage of people who are feeling like it's not necessary, like they shouldn't have to do that. And if they don't wanna do it for themselves, then do it for everyone else. You know, if you can be anything, be kind and part of being kind is taking care of others.
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