COVID-19 Recovery and Rehabilitation, Physical Therapy

David Hylton Post-COVID-19 Recovery and Rehabilitation Therapy Program

“The moment the COVID-19 vaccine was available to me, I signed up,” says David Hylton.

Even though he battled the coronavirus before he was eligible to be vaccinated—or perhaps more accurately, because he had battled COVID-19—the 32-year-old didn’t want to take any chances of reliving that terrible experience. An experience that included a 10-day stay at Lancaster General Hospital and months of recovery time that kept him away from a job he loves and the activities he enjoys. 

An Unexpected Holiday Season at Lancaster General Hospital

David contracted COVID-19 in mid-December 2020.

“I was taking a student to the school nurse,” recalls David, who works as an aide in an autistic support classroom. “I was also starting to feel sick and asked the nurse to take my temperature.”

David went home and scheduled a COVID-19 test for the next day. It came back positive. 

He thought he could recuperate at his Strasburg home with his wife Abby’s help. But over the next few days David felt increasingly worse.

“I could only take a couple of steps before getting out of breath,” says David, who also has asthma and understood he was at increased risk of complications from the virus. 

He reached out to Dr. Alyssa Hernandez, his primary care provider at LG Health Physicians Family Medicine Abbeyville, who sent David to the Emergency Department at Lancaster General Hospital. David was admitted with low oxygen levels and spent nearly three weeks at the hospital, some of that time in the Intensive Care Unit.

“I came close, but never had to go on a ventilator,” says David, who was prepared for the worst. He praises the critical care team for their compassion and attentive care, despite the large number of patients in the Intensive Care Unit. 

A New Year of Challenges

Still on oxygen, David was discharged from the hospital on New Year’s Eve and began his long road to recovery.

“Even getting dressed and bathing was exhausting, and I felt like I had been hit by a truck when on my feet for just a few minutes,” recalls David.

“Not being at work was one of the worst parts,” says David, who loves his job with Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13. “I really missed the kids and they missed me.”

In February, Dr. Hernandez referred David to Lancaster General Health’s Post-COVID-19 Recovery and Rehabilitation Therapy Program, where he took part in physical therapy to help improve his strength and endurance. The program is part of an ongoing effort across Penn Medicine to help patients who face lingering challenges after COVID-19, and includes physical, occupational, and speech therapists, as well as neuropsychologists, behavioral health counselors, and nutritionists. 

Post-COVID-19 Physical Therapy

David went for physical therapy at the Willow Lakes outpatient location and worked with physical therapists Emily Adsitt and Danielle Godfrey.

“David was one of our first patients to go through physical therapy for lasting symptoms from COVID-19,” recalls Danielle. “He was an excellent patient and worked very hard to get better.”

During a series of 12 visits, David worked on an interval-based cardio and strengthening regimen. Emily and Danielle carefully monitored his vital signs to ensure he was being adequately challenged, but also maintaining a safe oxygen saturation level.

“We also educated David on a home exercise program that included walking, full body strengthening and guidance for weaning his supplemental oxygen,” says Emily.

“He left us no longer requiring any supplemental oxygen, performing all household activities, and walking at least 30 minutes continuously without difficulty,” she adds.

“He was a true success story,” says Danielle.

On Course for a Full Recovery

David and Abby are happy to once again be doing the things they enjoy like golfing, traveling and “just being outside,” smiles David, who gets discouraged when he hears some people claim the COVID-19 pandemic is “fake” and refuse to get vaccinated.

“COVID is very very real,” he says. “I lived it for three pretty grueling months and never want to go through it again. Please get vaccinated for yourself and others.”

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