Long walk to recovery for virus coma patients in Belgium
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by Kenzo Tribouillard
Some of them have been in a coma for days. Some are too weak to call for help. All need support even after they have been released from intensive care.
The global coronavirus epidemic had threatened to overwhelm critical care facilities in Europe’s hospitals.
That risk is receding but, just as societies and economies will take time to heal, COVID-19’s shattered survivors will carry the burden of the disease.
“These are patients who have been in a coma for a long time, so they need to express their fears, their worries, their emotions, and we need to be there for them,” nurse Agnes Lambert said.
Lambert works in the post-intensive care recovery unit in Brussels’ Erasmus Hospital in Belgium, one of the countries with the highest per capita rate of COVID-19 infection.
Belgium massively stepped up its specialist ICU treatment to cope with the outbreak, and is tentatively preparing to begin exiting social and economic lockdown next week.
But, while new case numbers are falling, those who have been treated and cured still need care, especially those who wake up scared and scarred.
“For people in my state, and so for me too, what is painful is to have to recover reflexes and actions that are completely natural,” says 74-year-old Pierre Fonteyne.
“Walking, basically, walking, reading, writing,”
Two health workers in full face plastic visors help him sit up painfully, a third gives him an anti-inflammatory painkiller which he sips gingerly. Then he stands for a brief assisted walk and some knee flexes.
“After a month, the pathogen has healed, but not the rest,” he tells AFP, explaining how he had come in to the hospital for another condition, only to be diagnosed with novel coronavirus.
“That is what saved my life and that of my wife. Because I didn’t know I had the coronavirus. But I had it, very strongly,” he said, explaining how the couple came to be admitted.
“Having remained motionless for a month, everything has to be re-educated, of course. And my wife too, even if it’s a little less strong. And that’s where I am now.” (AFP)