In His Own Words

COVID-19 'Long Hauler' Benefits from Pulmonary Rehab

After suffering with COVID-19 and its aftermath, Brad is happy for “grill and chill” time with his family.

Brad Rothermel’s family calls him “the moon baby,” since he was born July 20, 1969, when U.S. astronauts first landed on the moon. But his “lunar lineage” didn’t give him any breaks when he caught COVID-19 just after their clan’s Thanksgiving gathering last year. According to Brad, “It latched on to me and didn’t let go. I wondered if I would ever quit coughing. I felt awful for months and it is still giving me grief. Before I was sick, I thought COVID would be no big deal – like getting the flu – but it was way worse.”

Diagnosed with COVID pneumonia, his physician recommended cardiopulmonary rehab to help Brad deal with some of his debilitating side effects. Brad shares, “I was super weak and had fallen 10 times in my house. My legs were wobbly, I had breathing issues, and I was struggling with vertigo. The doctor wanted me to go to rehab to work primarily on my strength and lung capacity. Although I go to the doctor in Winnebago and he referred me to Rockford, I asked if I could come to FHN instead. I am so glad I did.”

Class had many COVID patients

Brad’s rehab class included other COVID patients also struggling to return to their pre-pandemic condition. FHN Exercise Physiologist Molly Breningstall says these patients often suffer from long-term lung disorders. “We do a lot of pulmonary conditioning to help get people back on track. We increase the speed and incline of the treadmill, up the poundage of the hand weights, and carefully monitor each patient’s progress. Brad’s lung capacity improved during rehab and helped him feel more confident in going out and about again.”

“I feel stronger and steadier now,” Brad declares, “and my blood pressure is perhaps the best of my life. I lost 30 lbs., thanks to FHN’s nutritional counseling, so that helps, too. We had interesting guest speakers, watched educational videos, and shared tips with each other on what was working for us. It was almost like a support group of sorts, because we were all in a similar situation. I made some new friends!”

Rehab staff was 'professional and personable'

He continues, “The therapists carefully tracked my progress, which kept me motivated to keep going. They were professional, and incredibly personable, too. Believe it or not, they made it really fun. The patients got to pick out exercise music, and I introduced some of the younger folks to Cheap Trick tunes – can you believe they hadn’t heard of Cheap Trick?! It helped me out so much – both my physical health and my mental health.”

Now, Brad continues to battle post-COVID syndrome. He still struggles with fatigue, cannot taste or smell like before, and has problems focusing, but he is happy to feel stronger and more like himself. Most of all, he is committed to making incremental improvements that enhance his quality of life. “I really appreciate Molly, Krista, LeAnne, Angela, Ryan, and all the rehab staff who helped me in my battle to overcome these lingering COVID side effects. They are all so smart, so nice, and so encouraging. They helped me prove to myself that I could do it. I am going to keep fighting, using everything they taught me.”