ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) — Arlington’s Betty Slanta says she was frightened when she tested positive for the coronavirus in March. She developed chest pain, back pain, and severe chills.
“I didn’t think that I would get it,” she said.
Slanta thought she’d recovered until she was singing in her church choir. “I tried singing with the virtual services on a Sunday morning and I realized that after about a minute I couldn’t get enough breath and I started coughing.”
That’s when she found a pulmonary rehab program through a Facebook support group for so-called “long haulers”: Covid survivors whose symptoms won’t go away, even after they test negative for the virus.
Dr. Noah Greenspan is the director of the Pulmonary Wellness Foundation’s post-Covid Rehab and Recovery Clinic in New York City. He’s adapted his pulmonary rehab boot camp for Covid survivors around the world, including Betty Slanta.
“When Covid came about we thought this would be the perfect solution for Covid patients because you do it at home, you don’t have to go anywhere,” Greenspan said. “But what we found is that even though it was designed for older patients with COPD, pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary fibrosis, etcetera etcetera, it was actually too vigorous for Covid patients.”
Greenspan says the program is about taking control of your health with breathing exercises, daily motivation, balance, flexibility, and strength training, and walkabouts.
“You’re going to see our walkabouts through different parts of the world because I’m sure the last thing you want to see is me walking in place for 15 minutes,” Greenspan said in a promotional video.
The walkabouts were Slanta’s favorite part. “He taught you how to breathe a little bit better so when I walk in my neighborhood, or when I try to walk in my neighborhood, the breathing in and breathing out is so much better and so much easier,” she said.
Most importantly, as we’re discovering so much about the coronavirus day by day, the support reminds survivors that they’re not alone.
“They may do two minutes and be fine, they may do three minutes and be fine; but they may do three minutes and 30 seconds and for whatever reason, we’re not clear yet on what that is, they may wind up in bed for two weeks with a relapse in their symptoms,” Greenspan said. “Covid is like a riptide. Covid sets the pace. It’s always better to underdo than overdo.”
Not every Covid survivor needs to go to rehab, and every survivor is different. It’s important to consult your doctor first and pay close attention to your symptoms.