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Effective January 4th, Inspira Health facilities are implementing mandatory masking due to increases in respiratory virus positivity rates throughout the area.
Kevin Flaim of Vineland knew almost nothing about physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech language pathology until March of this year. Since then, physical rehabilitation and breathing therapy have been a regular part of his life. He and his therapists share a common goal, to restore the strength, stamina and breathing capacity that COVID-19 robbed from him. Ultimately, he hopes to return to his chosen work as a vegetable farmer.
Kevin’s COVID-19 journey began on Christmas Day 2020. He didn’t feel well and suspected COVID-19 because his wife, Sharon, had been sick with the virus earlier in the month. She recovered at home without a trip to the ER, so Kevin thought he could ride it out, too. But the next day, Kevin felt worse – much worse. Yet he still didn’t want to go to the hospital. It took a call from his son, a critical care pulmonologist in Pennsylvania, to finally persuade him to go to the ER.
"He told me if I didn't go, he was going to drive down and take me to the ER himself," Kevin said.
Sharon drove him to a neighboring health system’s emergency department. It would be almost four months before Kevin was back home.
He remembers arriving at the ER, tests being performed and then being taken to the intensive care unit. His next memory is from almost two weeks later. A nurse asked him if he knew what day it was. He responded December 27th. In reality, it was January 9. From that day, more than six weeks would pass before he was transferred to an inpatient rehab facility. It took two months of daily therapy to build Kevin up to the point where he could safely transition from bed to a wheelchair and take a handful of steps using a walker.
Once at home, Kevin received two weeks of in-home therapy, but was still so weak he could only walk short distances with his walker. Fortunately for Kevin, a family friend told Sharon about Inspira’s COVID-19 Recovery Program, where a blend of therapies continues to help him recover his strength, stamina and breathing capacity.
In the program, Kevin has impressed the therapists with his determination and willingness to put in full effort while at the program and with his home exercises. They even share his story to motivate other COVID Recovery Program participants. Kevin’s progress has been slow and steady.
Often called COVID long haulers syndrome, the lingering effects of the illness can result in debilitating symptoms that can last for months. The coordinated, multi-disciplinary COVID Recovery Program is customized for each participant and can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, breathing and pulmonary therapy, cardiac rehab and other specialties as needed. For Kevin, that includes specialized lymphedema therapy for the swelling in his legs that developed during the acute phase of his illness. Participation in the program can run from a few weeks to many months.
Even after dozens of visits, Kevin marvels at the effectiveness of the activities and exercises, many that he describes as simple. Whether it’s catching a ball, squeezing putty, pedaling an ergometer with his arms or highly specialized EMST 150 training to strengthen the muscles used to breath, each customized activity is getting him closer to his goal of getting back to work on his farm.
And Kevin is grateful to the team who has dedicated countless hours and demonstrated great creativity as they assist in his recovery. They are “excellent people,” says Kevin.
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