In an article distributed by USA Today, Stephanie Innes of the Arizona Republic writes about the remarkably long recovery period for COVID-19 survivors.

Recovery times for people that have been seriously sick are lengthy — in general, at least three times as long as people were hospitalized, if not longer.

Stephanie Innes, Arizona Republic

Innes writes about a body-builder who was felled by the virus. During his hospitalization, he lost about a quarter of his weight and most of his muscle. Although he has recovered from the symptoms of the disease, his physical stamina has not. The act of standing and sitting one time was initially enough to wear him out. He is beginning to be able to walk.

I go on walks now in the afternoons. That’s just to build my legs back up so that I can start moving around again and I can start getting back again to a somewhat normal life.

Charlie Aragon, Former body-builder, COVID-19 survivor

He has survived, but he is only beginning to recover.

I was there. A year ago, while we were on vacation in Amsterdam, an undiagnosed arterial aneurysm ruptured and my heart stopped. The OLVG Hospital saved my life more than once in the weeks that followed. When I came into myself in the final weeks of my ICU stay, I had lost nearly 30% of my weight and about half my strength. I could barely move. 

I could hardly recognize myself in the mirror.

The body-builder used to look like this. Imagine his reaction to his post COVID body.

It’s called ICU-Acquired Weakness. Muscles atrophy from lack of use.

I was no body-builder, but I was very fit when I got sick. I’d taught exercise for 40 years and had the habit of doing some kind of aerobic activity every day — dancing, walking, jogging, biking, swimming. To be unable to move was a shock.

It was even more of a shock to be told it would take me at least a year to fully recover.

Courage. It takes courage to recover. To believe that your legs will ever hold you up again. That you will walk. That you will jog. That you will run.

Change is an inside job.

Therapy adage

It’s been a year of recovery. The advice of an OLVG Hospital doctor has been with me all the while.

Set small goals. Peeling a tangerine. Turning onto one side. Sitting at a table. Standing up.

And one day, you’ll look up and realize how far you’ve come. Today, I ran two miles.

To the young man in Innes’ piece, and to all the COVID-19 survivors, I am sending an abundance of patience, resiliency, and courage as they slowly make their way back to themselves. Whatever that looks like.

And to the rest of us, perhaps we could use patience, resiliency, and courage as we continue to face down the much changed world we inhabit at this moment, knowing that, step by step, we, too, will make our way back. Whatever that looks like.

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