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Franciscan Health program helps long COVID patients one step at a time

Posted at 8:50 AM, Dec 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-03 09:10:37-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Katherine Neuger approaches life one step at a time, but this mother of four and triathlete’s momentum came to a full halt after she tested positive for COVID in January.

Her COVID symptoms persisted well past infection.

“I felt like I had been in a severe car wreck that my body and my mind had been smashed and that was the degree of pain that was feeling on a daily basis,” Neuger said.

Her symptoms hit her so hard medical experts had to go through the process of ruling out multiple sclerosis or a possible stroke. Now Neuger is one of countless Hoosiers living with a condition known as long COVID.

Ultimately her journey to recovery led her to Dr. Sachin Mehta, with Franciscan Health’s Outpatient Neuro Program.

“We really attack our recovery in a careful slow and steady pace. We’re really seeing some really good outcomes,” Mehta
said. He said, “Our patients are really struggling with some of these symptoms and we’re glad to have a program in Indianapolis that can help improve their quality of life.”

Franciscan Health’s Outpatient Neuro Program

“It gave me hope when he said we have a team of people to help you get better,” Neuger said

So far Franciscan Neuro Rehab Services has had more than 900 referrals here, since January, with more than 750 people coming here for COVID-related symptoms.

For more than four months, Neuger went through the ups and downs of COVID recovery.

Her hard work included re-training her eyes to follow directions, retraining her body to balance and slowly regain her energy.

“I used to lose track of the circle. I used to lose that really easily,” Neuger said about an exercise.

Lead physical therapist Lindsay Conn is one of many who treated Neuger and she said they added even more staff to help treat the long COVID patients.

“Every booth a lot of times is full,” Conn said.

She said they individualize physical therapy because the symptoms differ, from person to person.

“I’ve been a (physical therapist) for 11 years and these last two years have been like no other in my career,” Conn said.

What’s not rare is the persistence of the patients like Neuger. She worked hard on her recovery, even at home.

“It’s awesome, it’s very very rewarding to be able to have a success story like Kathryn,” Conn said.

In August, Neuger eventually completed her first triathlon since catching COVID.

“And it was one of the happiest moments I’ve experience this last year,” she said

That achievement and progress is all thanks to the process Neuger said she couldn’t have accomplished alone.

Franciscan Health has three physical therapy units in Central Indiana that are helping treat long COVID patients.

The process to go to one of those starts with your primary care doctor. So that’s the first step if you’re seeking long COVID symptom treatment, for a referral.

To dive deeper into this topic for you here are a few of the symptoms of long COVID.

According to the Mayo-Clinic those are fatigue; difficulty breathing; memory; concentration; or sleep problems; muscle pain or headache; a pounding heartbeat; loss of smell or taste; worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities.

For a full list of long COVID symptoms, click here.