I’m a few weeks into pulmonary rehab, which was the main recommendation of the pulmonary doc I saw back in May. All of my tests came back negative for Covid-related damage, which seems to be common with Long-Haul Covid, even though I was still having trouble with breathing and stamina (also common among Long-Haulers).
The intake nurse for the pulmonary rehab did a long questionnaire and got my vital signs at the orientation interview. She told me that they’ve gotten very busy over the last few months with post-Covid patients and now had almost more referrals than they could manage in the program. After reviewing my symptoms both at the time of my illness last March and those that still remain, she told me that despite the lack of test results, she had no doubt I’d had Covid-19. My symptoms matched so many of the other post-Covid patients that they were seeing.
The program uses a multi-pronged approach to rehab. Most of the time is spent on cardio-type exercises, including a Nu-Step stepper and a treadmill. However due to my having severe osteo-arthritis in one knee, they don’t want me on a treadmill, so I walk a track around the main gym for fifteen minutes each session. They also have everyone do a set of upper body strengthening exercises with elastic bands and then some cool-down stretches.
They’ve taught me a few breathing techniques that help when I feel my breath getting short. I’ve seen a lot of improvement in the shortness of breath over the past few months, from times last summer when I could barely walk around the block to now when I can manage over a mile at a time. Hills are still a problem, but even that is getting better. The “pursed-lips” breathing technique has helped me regain control when I’ve starting getting huffy and puffy after scaling what is really not a very long or steep climb.
A nutritionist on staff reviews each person’s diet with them and makes suggestions to improve it. She’s extremely practical and good at starting where people are to try to alter some habits. For me, an unfortunate bug in the family gene pool means I’ve had high blood pressure and high cholesterol pretty much all my adult life, so I long ago cut out salty and fatty foods from my diet, except for some special occasions. When we reviewed my diet, the only flaw she could find was that I might not be getting enough protein, so she suggested adding protein shakes to the routine. When I’ve tried them in the past, I’ve found them nasty-tasting, but she recommended a couple of brands and flavors that are actually pretty palatable.
At this point a combination of time and therapy (and possibly getting vaccinated) do seem to be having a pretty positive effect. My last relapse happened about a month ago now and it was not as severe as previous ones. I hate to say this too loudly and publicly because Covid is sneaky and can knock you back just when you think you’re improving, but I’ve noticed that my shortness of breath is receding, and my energy is returning. I’m not all the way there yet, but I’m in a much better place than I was six months ago.