Bryn Mawr Rehab program offering help to patients with long COVID symptoms

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Federal officials say up to 23 million Americans may have developed long COVID health problems that last long after an initial infection.

Although research on long COVID is still in the early stages, there are already plenty of programs offering help.

Even simple things are big accomplishments for 71-year-old Rick Cannon, 18-months after he first got COVID-19.

"I remember being in the ER and then falling asleep. And that's the last I remember till I woke up in middle November," he said.

But it took another five months - until April 2021 - before Rick went home.

He was 121 pounds, couldn't taste or smell, had stroke-like weakness on his left side, neuropathy and drop foot in both feet.

Dr. Mithra Maneyapanda of Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital says every patient in the Post-COVID program is different - some with one symptom, some with many.

"Brain fog, trouble with memory, word-finding difficulties. They can also have physical symptoms, whether it's difficulty with weakness, fatigue - some patients are still displaying shortness of breath and chest pains," he said.

Others have mood issues. Because the causes are still unknown, the treatment focuses on each symptom.

"They might see physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathologists, psychologists...," said Dr. Maneyapanda.

Rick's drop foot was surgically fixed, so his recovery is finally gaining speed.

"I can walk six or seven minutes without getting exhausted," he said. "I can go up the steps, down the steps. I can get in the shower."

Physical therapists say hard work by patients here and at home is paying off.

"I just had somebody the other day that said, ' have felt like myself for the past four days'," said Julie Biely, P.T.

Each patient like Rick is also helping expand Bryn Mawr Rehab's knowledge, and that will help future patients.

"Once the science catches up, we'll have more targeted treatments to offer," said Dr. Maneyapanda.
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