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COVID-19 survivor credits rehab facility for getting another chance at life

Had to re-learn how to walk, talk, swallow after illness
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Posted at 6:00 AM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 20:34:23-05

KIRTLAND, Ohio — New research shows that the physical toll COVID-19 can have on a person may last months after they no longer have the illness.

Post-recovery symptoms can range from fatigue and coughs to more serious complications like shortness of breath and memory loss.

But medical experts say that exercise and physical therapy can reverse some of those effects and help strengthen your immune system.

It’s a story Bruce and Kathleen Carter know all too well.

For 54 years, the two have spent their lives, side by side.

That is until COVID-19 hit.

They both got sick with coronavirus last March — Kathleen recovered at home but for 74-year-old Bruce, their worst nightmares came to life.

Forty-four days in the hospital, 17 days on a ventilator, days of dialysis.

“I had to say goodbye to him at the hospital door. I could not go in with him, I could not be with him,” Kathleen said.

“By the time I got out, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t swallow, I had trouble talking,” Bruce said.

For a man who had spent his entire life being active, it was a huge blow.

So Bruce was brought to Kirtland Rehabilitation and Care in Kirtland.

Twenty-one days of vigorous rehab to get his body and mind where it needed to be.

“The guys that exercised me and I told them, ‘Work me as hard as you can. I want out.’”

“He wanted to come home so bad,” Kathleen said, clutching his hand as they sat together.

Physical therapist Lawrence Bradley worked with Bruce day after day — strength coming back step by step.

Bradley said they’ve seen COVID patients ranging in age from late 40s to their 90s, needing rehab after recovery more often than most people realize.

“It takes a lot out of patients, it’s sad to see,” Bradley said. “Pretty much fatigue is the main issue with most people. And difficulty catching their breath, they can’t get enough air. It’s much more debilitating than I would have ever thought in the beginning.”

And for Bruce, nearly a year later, the effects of the illness are still felt.

“Every system in his body was affected by COVID. His kidneys, his lungs, his intestines, his heart. every inch of his body,” Kathleen said. “Everything was affected by it.”

But despite the pain, there’s progress every day.

Bruce said he is forever grateful to the doctors and nurses at Lake West Hospital, the team at Kirtland Rehab.

“They did so much for me. I can’t thank them enough,” Bruce said.

And of course, his lovely wife.

The Carters wanted to share their story to let people know how serious COVID-19 can be for some — and how differently it can affect us all.

Kathleen recovered at home with no issues, while Bruce suffered so much.

Now, he says he has good days and bad days, but hoping to someday get back to the active guy he was before getting sick.