CHENNAI: COVID-19 has been a strange infectious disease that came to wage a different kind of war on us. Some survived Covid, some developed mild or even escaped any symptoms at all, but Covid did leave its mark on them, deep, damaging, and disabling.
A constellation of symptoms bothered us; we felt fatigued, there was body ache, headache and joint pain, dizziness and there was a ‘ fog’ in the brain all the time which affected sleep, memory and concentration. Some experienced chest pain, palpitations and breathlessness, appetite was poor and so was smell, and felt anxious and depressed.
In this scenario, HAMSA Rehabilitation Centre served with a mission to give the best possible life back to patients coming to terms with the disabilities from various neurological injuries and diseases of the brain and nervous system. A joint project of Kauvery Hospital Chennai and Dr G Balamurali, HoD, Spine Surgery, Kauvery Hospital Chennai and MD, HAMSA Rehab, the centre rose to the challenge and marshalled an army of rehabilitation professionals to heal the mind and body.
“During Covid, we realised that those affected with severe Covid and hospitalised for long duration required rehabilitation to recover completely. People who have pre-existing medical issues like obesity, multiple organ involvement, those who have had a prolonged stay in an ICU or a hospital or under mechanical ventilation, may develop consequences in terms of physical, psychological and cognitive disability,” explains Dr Balamurali.
The team treats patients who suffer from post-Covid illnesses such as difficulty in breathing, fatigue, body aches and joint pains and mental health problems presenting as impairment of speech, memory and attention. Some of the effects of severe COVID-19, especially in the elderly, the obese and in patients with diabetes, cardiac and lung problems are psychological issues such as stress, anxiety, depression and fear. These can be taken care of by psychological counselling and therapies. Intellectual abilities like memory, attention, and the concentration of the mind required for planning and execution etc. will be impaired in two out of three patients who are out of ICU. Affected patients may need to be supported with respiratory exercises, and mindfulness and other psycho- social interventions.
Two patients who illustrated the impact of Long Covid were a 62-year-old and 69-year-old, who had tested positive for the virus, with symptoms of fever and breathlessness. “The patients were at hospital for two weeks, and were later shifted to the rehab centre in order to regain their ability to breathe freely and move their hands and legs with ease. The team of physiotherapists gave them respiratory exercises using spirometers. Within a few days, they were able to practice all the exercises themselves, achieving a recovery,” says Dr Balamurali. There is evidence to show that those who receive early rehabilitation, as they recover from the acute phase, improve better in their physical, mental and social well-being. There is also clear evidence that post-Covid rehabilitation reduces complications, and avoids re-admission to the hospital, thereby aiding better recovery.
“Apart from these, diet counselling, muscle strengthening and psychological support are also given to make the patient feel healthier mentally and physically,” says Dr Balamurali. HAMSA has seen more than 400 patients during the last 18 months. A team of physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, psychologist and dietician together provide therapies to patients as soon as they are admitted, and until discharge. The centre also cares for pediatric and geriatric patients.
It offers physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychological support and counselling. The rehab physician and nurses also continue to serve their original mission, offering a wide range of therapies for neurological injuries and diseases (stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury), orthopedic injury and diseases (polytrauma, joint replacement), cardiac ailments and post-surgery rehab.