Denver Health pathologist discusses difficulties of recovering from COVID-19

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DENVER, Colo — For many coronavirus patients, recovery from the virus doesn’t end once they’re discharged from the hospital.

Rehabilitation is hard and often involves relearning how to do basic things, according to Denver Health Speech Pathologist Thomas de Miniac.

“Once they leave the hospital, we often end up recommending outpatient services or even home health to keep assessing vocal function and swallowing function,” de Miniac said.

Vocal and swallowing function issues can begin once a patient has been on a ventilator for more than 48 hours, De Miniac said. Around 60-70% of his patients require some sort of rehabilitation in order to learn how to eat and drink again.

De Miniac also said patients who haven’t used their vocal cords for weeks while on a ventilator find it hard to speak again. Relearning to speak in the COVID-19 section of the hospital can be tough because the machinery in a room makes it hard to hear. To make it easier for patients and doctors to communicate, pathologists are using transparent masks.

“We’ve been able to use these masks, which are CDC-approved, and we can get into a room with visual cues being able to be seen by the patient,” de Miniac said.

De Miniac said he wants the community to know surviving coronavirus is hard, but recovery can be just as hard.