Long Haulers: New program at Gaylord Specialty Healthcare helps patients with prolonged COVID effects

Connecticut Families

WALLINGFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Last April, Vic Gara was the first COVID-19 patient released from Gaylord Specialty Healthcare. He was hospitalized for a month on the brink of death.

“I was on a ventilator for 11 days,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason. I’m very happy to be alive.”

But this wasn’t the end of the story for the 56-year-old.

He made strides through May and June but July brought a return of symptoms.

“Got up in the morning, got myself ready and then I’d have to hit the couch or get back to bed and sleep for most of the day; the exhaustion was horrible,” said the Burlington father, who is now considered a “long hauler,” testing negative but plagued with problems brought on by coronavirus.

“I was really soul searching, trying to figure out what the next steps are,” said Gara.

“COVID attacks the body,” explained Dr. Jerry Kaplan of Gaylord Specialty Healthcare. “It can be an inflammatory autoimmune phenomenon that can attack every organ system in the body.”

Through a bi-weekly virtual support group, Gara learned about Kaplan and the Gaylord COVID Recovery Program which is providing a significant number of patients continued care with physical, occupational and cognitive therapies.

“The term ‘brain fog’ is a common term that people are mentioning now that really talks about the cognitive difficulties that people are experiencing,” said Kaplan.

COVID can also cause psychiatric issues especially for healthcare workers experiencing PTSD.

“They’re afraid when they go back to work, ‘Am I going to catch COVID again? Am I safe to be here? Can I interact with patients?'”

“It’s a big deal, take it seriously,” said Gara with words for all of us.

He also offers a message of support for others with prolonged effects: “Please seek out professional help whether it’s at Gaylord or anywhere else. Don’t suffer. Try to get the help you need.”

Dr. Kaplan said there’s certainly hope for patients like Gara. It’s possible to retrain the body’s systems, regain strength and return to a productive life.

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