Rethinking COVID Recovery: Marathon, Not A Sprint

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It’s called post-intensive care unit syndrome, or PICU and prior to the pandemic, many of us may never have heard of it. But patients who survive an extended stay in an intensive care unit on a ventilator may have a number of unique health challenges to overcome. More on how hospitals are rethinking recovery for COVID patients.

For 33-year-old Robert Hardy, coaching his son D’yon means the world to him. But just a few months ago, Robert spiked a fever. Over four or five days his health tanked. Finally, he called 911.

“Was going down my steps at the apartment, walking past my truck. And next thing I know, I woke up in the hospital with a tube in my mouth,” recalled Robert Hardy III.

Robert had COVID. He was on a ventilator and in a coma for 16 days. When he woke up, he had no idea what had happened and no idea what was yet to come, starting with a blood clot in his knee.

“Physical therapy came in the room and got me out of the bed and I’m thinking I’m going to walk to the bathroom on my own and legs couldn't walk,” shared Hardy.

Dr. Babar Khan developed the critical care recovery center model more than a decade ago. He says after patients are discharged some physical symptoms may take months or longer to improve.

“It can be up to a year; up to two years before certain ICU survivors really can go back to their functioning that they were doing before,” explained Babar Khan, MD, a critical care physician at Regenstrief Institute at Indiana University.

“Sometimes I get frustrated because, you know, before this situation, I was healthy, having fun with my kids and doing everything I wanted to do,” shared Hardy.

But he is thankful to be here and knows he needs to walk before he can jump, shoot, and run.

Dr. Khan says there are about 20 academic centers across the country treating survivors in ICU recovery centers much like the one at Indiana University. Many hospitals are now shifting their model of care to address all of the physical, social, and emotional concerns facing recovering COVID patients like memory problems, depression and anxiety.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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