'Keep your faith and please do not give up': Hospital's first rehabilitated COVID-19 patient happy to be alive

Published on Wednesday, 29 April 2020 16:28
Written by Ciara Hooks


NEW BRITAIN – The Hospital for Special Care discharged its first rehabilitated COVID-19 patient from their COVID-19 recovery unit Wednesday.

Hospital for Special Care has been providing additional intensive rehabilitation care for patients diagnosed with COVID-19 after they leave the acute care hospital.

“During the week of March 20 I wasn’t feeling good that Tuesday, and by that Thursday my daughter had taken me to the ER, but they sent me back home because they didn’t think I had the COVID,” said Michael Kelly, 63, of East Hartford. “That Friday my temperature was 102, so my daughter called 911 and the ambulance took me to Hartford Hospital.”

Kelly was admitted to the hospital and spent about nine days on a ventilator. The COVID-19 had attacked his lungs and he lost the ability to breathe on his own along with the ability to walk.

“I just remembered seeing things I’ve never seen before and fighting for my life,” Kelly said.

He was admitted to the Hospital for Special Care on April 10.

“He was noted to be profoundly debilitated, and what we’re seeing from these patients after being extubated from their COVID, they are having significant muscular debility that’s likely due to a viral insult,” said Marcy Goldstein, MD, pulmonologists. “He was also notably breathless at rest and significantly anxious. A lot of these patients after their journey in the ICU will come to us and they have significant anxiety that almost represents a post traumatic stress.”

The COVID recovery unit’s multidisciplinary care team treated Kelly medically, physically and with his psycho-social needs.

“The first thing they did was they sat me on the edge of the bed, and the first week I took five steps. Before the week was out they had me take 40 steps with a walker with one of the physical therapists,” Kelly said. “Then I would have an occupational therapist come in as well to teach me how to dress myself and perform my daily duties. They had a physical therapist everyday that helped me build the strength necessary to walk on my own, to help me with my coordination, balance and strength. They would have me lifting very light weights and do a lot of stretching.”

“He was seen regularly by psychology and was receiving training from our respiratory therapists as far as pacing, endurance and breathing exercises,” Goldstein said.

Kelly was initially afraid at the beginning of the process, thinking it would be years before he was able to walk again, that it would be hard and he couldn’t do it, but HFSC “absolutely exceeded my expectations,” he said.

“One of their biggest contributions they made to me was their consistency and kindness. My family could not come see me; I hadn’t seen them in over a month and the staff at Special Care was so nice and so kind and 100 percent consistent,” Kelly said. “Not one time did I not feel embraced or cared about. That was a major part of my recovery for me. And I would say to anyone fighting this battle right now to just keep your faith and please do not give up. We’re all in this together and you are so loved by so many you are not really aware of we’re with you.”

The COVID-19 recovery unit located at 2150 Corbin Ave. opened on April 9.

“We created a 10-bed unit in what was a ventilator weaning unit, much like an ICU, prior to the pandemic,” said Lynn Ricci, FACHE, President and CEO.

The recovery unit is worked by a multidisciplinary care team which includes pulmonologists, respiratory, physical and occupational therapists, speech language pathologists and others needed to help these patients recover.

“We closed this unit prior and transferred our patients to various areas in the hospital and some were discharged,” said Denise Anderson, PhD, Chief Nursing Officer. “We reconfigured our workflow for direct patient care, laundry services, high level cleaning processes, change of shift report, and reconfigured the physical space to allow for PPE application and removal. We did a lot of staff education for proper use of PPE. And we implemented an alternate staffing model where we trained non nurses to do some nursing type activities which really helped on the busy unit.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, General News on Wednesday, 29 April 2020 16:28. Updated: Wednesday, 29 April 2020 16:30.