Now, three months later, the 42-year-old still experiences breathing difficulties. “Once back home, even after weeks I couldn’t see any progress: if I took a small walk, it was like climbing Mount Everest. I was out of breath also just for talking. I was very worried,” he said.
Pescarolo is one of dozens of former Covid patients now receiving care at a rehabilitation clinic in Genoa — and says he is starting to see some progress.
For much of Europe, the peak of Covid-19 infections has passed. But while hospitals are no longer awash with acute cases, there are thousands of people who had either confirmed or suspected Covid and, weeks or months later, say they are far from fully recovered.
In the United Kingdom, communities of “long Covid” sufferers have spring up online, as people try to manage what appear to be long-term effects of a virus about which much remains unknown.
Meanwhile, health authorities in the UK and Italy, two of the European nations worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, are starting to offer rehabilitation services to Covid-19 survivors.
Dr Piero Clavario, director of the post-Covid rehab institute attended by Pescarolo in Genoa, said his team had started contacting several hundred Covid-survivors treated by hospitals in the district in May. Of those, they have now visited more than 50.
“They are not only those that were in ICU and intubated because of Covid, but also patients that spent not more than three days in the hospitals and then went home,” he said. “We investigate aspects that escape standard virological and pulmonary exams.”
Of the 55 people visited by his team, eight needed no follow-up support and had no complications, Clavario said. “Fifty percent have psychological problems, 15% PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).”
Each patient is given two half-day evaluations involving multiple tests by a team of doctors, cardiologists, neurologists, psychologists and physicians, Clavario said.
“What surprises me the most is that even the patients that have not spent any time in the ICU are extremely feeble: there is no evidence of a cardiological or pulmonary problem, but they are not even able to walk up a flight of stairs,” he said. “Most show a serious muscle weakness. A 52-year-old nurse had to go back to work after having recovered from Covid, but she just couldn’t physically make it.
“The positive thing is that, after a period of exercise in our gym, most of them can recover efficiently.”
Pescarolo, who needed extra oxygen while in Genoa’s Voltri hospital but was not intubated or admitted to the ICU, was happy to join the center’s program.
“It was nice to know that I wasn’t alone in experiencing such consequences of the disease. My rehab consists mainly in carrying out regular physical…