According to federal officials, up to 23 million Americans may have developed long COVID, sometimes referred to as long-haul COVID. Long COVID is a term used to describe health problems that continue long after an initial COVID infection.
Research on long COVID is still in the early stages but Post-COVID Recovery Program specialists at Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital, part of Main Line Health, are successfully treating long-haul COVID patients with a wide range of symptoms.
Watch 6abc Art of Aging video with Tamala Edwards at Bryn Mawr Rehab
Treating long-haul COVID patients, like Rick
It's been 18 months since Rick Cannon, 71, first got COVID. He spent five months as an inpatient at Bryn Mawr Rehab until April 2021. When he went home, he weighed 121 pounds. He couldn't taste or smell. He had stroke-like weakness on his left side in addition to neuropathy and drop-foot in both feet.
Says Mithra Maneyapanda, MD, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Bryn Mawr Rehab, "Every patient in the Post-COVID Recovery Program is different; some with one symptom; some with many."
These may include:
- Brain fog
- Trouble with memory
- Word finding difficulties
Long-haul COVID patients may also have physical symptoms, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
Patients may also experience mood issues, whether from long-haul COVID or from the stress of illness.
Because the causes are still unknown, treating long-haul COVID focuses on each symptom. Patients may see a physical therapist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, even a psychologist.
As for Rick, his drop foot was surgically repaired so his recovery is going well.
"I can now walk six or seven minutes without getting exhausted," he says. "I can go up and down steps without getting exhausted. I can get in the shower."
Physical therapists treating long-haul COVID patients say the hard work at Bryn Mawr Rehab and at home is paying off.
Says, Julie Biely, PT, "I just had someone the other day say, 'I have felt like myself for the past four days.'"
With each long-haul COVID patient treated, Bryn Mawr Rehab is expanding its knowledge and this will help future patients.
Adds Dr. Maneyapanda, "Once the science catches up, we'll have more treatments to offer."