"I´ve had to fight all my life"

Patient report on Post-COVID-19-Rehabilitation

REHABILITATION AFTER SEVERE COVID-19 DISEASE

"Thanks to my stubbornness I never gave up!"

Dagmar Klünder

COVID-19 disease with a severe course

When Dagmar Klünder is admitted to phase B for neurological rehabilitation at Kliniken Schmieder in Heidelberg at the beginning of March 2021, she has already had a very severe course of the disease. On New Year's Day, she is admitted to the Karlsruhe Clinic with a significant deterioration in her breathing. Here she is diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia. Despite intensive care measures, including ventilation and tracheal cannulation, as well as drug treatment, her condition continues to deteriorate rapidly. The critical condition lasted for several weeks, during which time further complications occurred.

At the time of transfer to Kliniken Schmieder, Dagmar Klünder is still in need of monitoring, is hardly responsive and is fed via a nasogastric tube. She can hardly move her hands and feet and also suffers from faecal and urinary incontinence. At this point, she is dependent on nursing support in all areas of daily life.

With the intensive measures of early rehabilitation, however, she is getting better day by day. She is becoming increasingly mobile, alert and sociable. Her swallowing function is also improving thanks to the speech therapy. Later, she also succeeds in weaning off the tracheal cannula, so that she is transferred to phase C. Four weeks later, in mid-June 2021, Dagmar Klünder is doing so well that she is no longer dependent on a wheelchair and is discharged from Kliniken Schmieder to go home with a walker.

Like others in this pandemic, Dagmar Klünder was caught cold out of nowhere: a few days after Christmas 2020, she developed chest pains, complained of a burning sensation in her lungs and shortness of breath. Her partner had only received the news herself on Christmas Eve: COVID-positive, but fortunately with a mild course, hardly any symptoms. Dagmar´s pain, on the other hand, got worse and she finally called the emergency doctor.

 

Then everything happens very quickly: a few hours later Dagmar is in a coma, for weeks. She hovers between life and death in the Karlsruhe Municipal Hospital. Her partner is informed a few times by telephone that Dagmar´s condition is not good and that the doctors do not know whether she will survive the next night at all. For the 67-year-old, it is hard to bear to think of what an emotional burden this must have been for her partner during this time. "I am so sorry that I caused her so much grief," she says.

Yet it is precisely Dagmar whose body is experiencing an enormous strain due to the COVID-19 disease: She has to be artificially ventilated, her lungs and liver are badly affected. But Dagmar Klünder doesn't just give in, she fights her way back. "I've had to fight all my life, as a child I had scarlet fever and almost died from it. I've also had diabetes and other pre-existing conditions for years. But my stubbornness never lets it get me down," she emphasises with a smile on her face.

The fact that today she can talk so openly about what was probably the most difficult time of her life and look forward to the future again is mainly thanks to her partner and the doctors who "get the last out of me". She is not only referring to her life-savers at the Karlsruhe Municipal Hospital, but above all to the doctors as well as therapists and nursing staff at the Schmieder Hospital in Heidelberg.

Dagmar still has considerable limitations with bowel movements and with her left leg when walking, her liver values are not yet optimal and her tongue is furry. And she also has to deal with some typical post-COVID symptoms. Her sense of smell and taste, for example, is limited or has changed: "Before I got sick I loved bananas, now I'm disgusted by them."

Nevertheless, considering the severity of her disease course, her recovery is progressing rapidly. Every day she adds a few metres while walking with the walking aid, and her liver and lungs are also recovering. "I am happy to be here every day. Everyone always has a kind word to spare, which is great." So from an emotional point of view, too, the stay is doing her good, she says.

Nevertheless, she is understandably drawn back to her own four walls and to her beloved wife Christiane, with whom she has been together for twenty years. "We are one and I miss that here," the pensioner says.

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