During the five days after a positive COVID-19 test result at the end of September 2021, 49-year-old Manchester resident, Rob Celeste said it felt like he had the flu. By October 8, he couldn’t get off the floor at home, and was taken to the hospital to begin a journey that led to him fight for his life through mid-December. On March 18, 2022 he reached an incredible milestone when graduating from the Elliot Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program. Pulmonary rehabilitation reduces patients’ symptoms and improves their exercise tolerance and health-related quality of life. He decided to extend his work with the Elliot team to further regain his strength and his quality of life.
Rob describes the beginning of his experience, “By October 19 when I was in the hospital, my oxygen level dropped to 50 percent. I was told that I had to be intubated, and there wasn’t time to notify my wife. I asked that someone call her to tell her that I love her.” Rob said that within 24 hours, his lungs weren’t responding, and he needed ECMO, a life support system where blood is pumped outside of the body to a heart-lung machine that removes carbon dioxide and sends oxygen-filled blood back to tissues in the body. It was uncertain whether he would survive.
He was transferred to a hospital out of state where a team was available to provide ECMO treatment. After losing 40 pounds, and needing to rebuild basic functions, Rob eventually was well enough to work hard at rehab in order to return closer to home and continue his progress with the Elliot Pulmonary Rehab Program.
Lynn Cummings, supervisor of the Elliot Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, said, “Over the course of the program, Rob has made incredible progress. He uses half of the oxygen that he required at the beginning—his shortness of breath is reduced by 50 percent. He is now biking three to four miles at a time and walking up to a mile. During the last week of his first phase of pulmonary rehabilitation, Rob was able to return to work. My goal is to provide him with the tools and training that will return his quality of life to how it was before COVID, as much as possible. I am very proud of all the work Rob is putting into his recovery.”
Rob is grateful for the support provided by Elliot. “The team at the Elliot has helped me to build up my stamina, return to work, and they helped to get my lungs working again. I am able to go without oxygen for a couple of hours while I rest—I am working hard to go without oxygen all together. Getting back to my usual life as much as possible is really important to me. Through the program with Elliot, I know that I am on the right track.”
Patients who are recovering from COVID need to repair respiratory muscle loss. They also need care for memory issues and emotional support. “We are pleased to help patients who are overcoming challenges due to COVID—there are many more patients who need this care. Our team is dedicated to the greatest success for each and every patient who comes to us for help. We wish Rob the best,” said Lynn.
For more information about the Elliot Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, visit Elliot Hospital | Pulmonary Rehabilitation in Manchester NH.