Free Online ‘Bootcamp’ Aims to Help Those With Lingering COVID-19 Effects

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by Mary Chapman |

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Pulmonary Hypertension Association PHA Guide

To help people experiencing the lingering effects of coronavirus infection, the Pulmonary Wellness Foundation (PWF) has launched a free online rehabilitation and recovery program called COVID Bootcamp 101.

In addition to patient education and support, the program offers breathing and other exercises conducted by a team of PWF medical and allied healthcare professionals. Sessions are every Wednesday and Sunday at 7 p.m. EST through Sept. 13. Go here to register.

The program is open to everyone and is the brainchild of prominent cardiopulmonary physical therapist and author Noah Greenspan, who founded the PWF and was profiled last year in a BioNews story. The New York-based nonprofit serves as a comprehensive and advanced wellness hub for the respiratory disease community, including those with pulmonary hypertension.

COVID-19, short for coronavirus disease 2019, is a global infection caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. While most symptoms are usually mild, about one in five patients become seriously ill and develop breathing difficulties. It has also been found that some COVID-19 patients experience persistent symptoms weeks and months after hospitalization.

“It was initially believed that COVID was primarily a respiratory illness and that you could expect to suffer a couple of weeks and then it’s gone,” Greenspan said in a press release. “Now, we know that it also affects the cardiovascular, the neurological, and gastrointestinal systems, among other potential effects.”

“Some [patients] are not only not getting better,” he said, “but in some cases, they’re actually getting worse, and they span all ages, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.”

Marion Mackles, a cardiopulmonary physical therapist and chief of PWF’s airway clearance program, said: “so many people are out there still suffering, weeks and even months after they’ve ‘recovered’ from the virus. They have no idea what they should be experiencing or even what questions to ask their doctors. Our program is designed to give them the knowledge base and support they need, to help them physically and emotionally, so they can get back to living their lives again.”

Although people with respiratory diseases such as PF are not necessarily at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, they may be more likely to show symptoms and to have a more severe infection than others.

“One of the most important aspects of infection control for COVID-19 is avoiding exposure in the first place,” said Robert Kaner, MD, PWF chairperson of the scientific committee and director of the interstitial lung disease program at Weill Cornell Medicine. “This is particularly important for people with pre-existing conditions.”

“Because pulmonary patients are already at increased risk of morbidity and mortality, they’ve been staying at home,” he added. “But because they’re not going out and exercising — and because they aren’t able to attend outpatient rehabilitation programs due to COVID — the need is even greater.”

A short video about the bootcamp is available via this link.

The foundation also produces a webinar series about COVID-19 and related issues that features guest experts across multiple disciplines. Go here for archived recordings.

“Now, more than ever, we have so many patients who are severely debilitated or burdened with chronically damaged lungs and other organs,” said Louis DePalo, MD, the newest member of PWF’s advisory board and medical director of the Health Center at Hudson Yards. “They need not only physical therapy, but a very specific type of therapy: cardiopulmonary rehabilitation.”