James L Post-COVID Comeback

"I needed to find a way to get back to health quicker. The Post-COVID Recovery Program provided me with that."

Recovery program helps one man regain strength after a coronavirus infection.

I thought I had taken my last breath,” James Lin remembers about the morning of December 10, 2020. The 51-year-old Edison resident had contracted COVID-19 and was experiencing fever, aches, coughing, difficulty breathing, chills and sweats.

When he’d first visited a local hospital emergency room two days before, he’d been sent home with cough medication. Now he felt significantly worse, as though he couldn’t get enough air to stay alive. “I woke my wife, and we went to the ER again,” he recalls. Doctors found James’s blood oxygen level dangerously low and admitted him to the hospital.

James was hospitalized for 10 days, receiving supplemental oxygen. When he became well enough to be discharged, he still needed an oxygen tank. He was glad to be reunited with his family for the holidays, “but I was nowhere near healthy,” he says.

Personalized Recovery

James knew he’d need help to recover. “My doctor said there were very few COVID-specific rehab programs in the state,” he recalls. One was the Post-COVID Recovery Program at Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus (MMCSC), which takes a multidisciplinary approach to assisting patients. “It would be a 50-mile drive each way, but because I wanted to get better, I signed up and began receiving pulmonary rehab and physical therapy twice a week,” James says.

The program’s therapists took a personalized approach to his treatment: “On my initial intake, they gave me a series of tests to assess my condition so they could design a program that was best for me,” he says.

James’s lung capacity was more than 25 percent lower than his normal status before COVID, so pulmonary rehabilitation became a focus of his visits. He would use a hand bicycle while seated, as well as a treadmill and exercise bicycle. “There were always therapists next to me, helping me and making sure I was okay,” he says. “They monitored my breathing and oxygen saturation.”

At first, James used supplemental oxygen while exercising. “But we gradually worked on taking the oxygen off,” he says. At the same time, his exercises gradually became more intense. “They were constantly changing the matrix to whatever worked for me,” he says.

James’s physical therapy focused on regaining strength and balance that he lost while spending five weeks recuperating in bed. “I would walk on bars on both sides, and step up to the stairs and come back down,” he says. “I would work on balancing on one foot versus the other and bounce balls against a wall to see if I could catch them.” He also used a machine that helped him push his body up and down with his legs.

Throughout his journey, he found friendly faces cheering him on. “They really care,” he says of MMCSC staff. “Even though I was 50 miles away from my house, they made me feel right at home.”

Back to Life

After about two months, James graduated from the Post-COVID Recovery Program. “I feel a lot stronger compared to the first time I walked in there,” he says. He’s regained about 80 percent of his lung capacity and in March returned to his job as a pharmaceutical company analyst. He continues to build strength by taking walks and going on bike rides.

James recommends post-COVID rehab for anyone who feels they need help with recovery. “They definitely should do it,” he says. “I needed to find a way to get back to health quicker. The Post-COVID Recovery Program provided me with that.”

To learn more, visit the Post-COVID Recovery Program at Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus, call 732-886-4849, or email mscrespiratory@rwjbh.org.