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Pulmonary Patient

Life After Severe COVID

Sitrin’s Pulmonary Rehab Gives New Life to Patients

“It’s a horrible, frightening feeling – not being able to breathe,” says Carmella Ventura. “It is the worst fear that I have ever experienced, by far.”

Carmella, an active 51-year-old native Utican, spent much of her spare time biking, kayaking and gardening. But that was before a lingering case of COVID-19 put her in ICU last fall with double pneumonia. After two weeks in the hospital, she was discharged, continuing to use supplemental oxygen. She lived in fear of gasping for breath, the feeling that sent her to the Emergency Department weeks earlier.

In addition to oxygen and many medications, her doctor prescribed pulmonary rehabilitation. She found her way to Sitrin’s specialized program with Dr. Phil Fess, PT, CSCS.

“When Carmella initially came to therapy,” Phil said, “she presented with a high level of anxiety based on her recent hospitalization, shortness of breath, and reliance on supplemental oxygen.”

But with professional medical guidance and determination to get better, Carmella attended every single appointment and adhered to the strict exercise regime that Phil developed for her.

“Over the course of weeks to months, Carmella improved dramatically in her ability to walk farther, experience less shortness of breath, and ultimately no longer need supplemental oxygen,” Fess said.

“Each time I went to Sitrin, I got better and better. Phil has always been gently encouraging, even when I didn’t feel like exercising. His confidence gave me confidence,” she said.

“Pulmonary rehab,” Fess said, “can benefit anyone with shortness of breath or difficulty walking, completing activities of daily living/household tasks due to shortness of breath.” It can greatly improve one’s quality of life, he said, and Carmella is living proof.

She recently was able to go back to her job at Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield full time and was considering trying Sitrin’s Aquatic Spin class, part of the outpatient Wellness program.

“Carmella has been an absolute joy to work with in therapy,” Fess said, “remaining positive throughout her entire experience. She has just about made a full recovery.”

A patient is evaluated at their first visit, Fess said, at which time he develops an exercise prescription based on outcome measures. This is aerobic and strengthening, as well as a series of breathing exercises, depending upon the diagnosis.

Four years into the worldwide pandemic, there is still much about COVID that we don’t understand. But for those experiencing lung issues from COVID or a variety of conditions, Sitrin’s pulmonary rehab program may be just what the doctor ordered.

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