BUTLER COUNTY (KDKA) — The symptoms from COVID-19 can linger for weeks, even after a person’s discharged from the hospital. But what happens in the days following the doctor’s decision to send someone home?
KDKA’s Meghan Schiller talked with one local man who said he’s back home but still fighting to feel better.
“I was discharged about a week and a half ago and really just the only side effects I’ve had is shortness of breath and low oxygen levels,” said Guy Leonard, Butler County resident.
Leonard tested positive for COVID-19 and wound up nine days later in the back of an ambulance headed to Butler Memorial Hospital. He stayed there for two weeks with severe shortness of breath. His wife and daughter also tested positive but didn’t feel nearly as bad or require hospitalization.
“I’m not quite better yet,” said Leonard. “I’m still on the oxygen at night and I have treatments during the day and follow-up of course, but I still have shortness of breath which seems to be lingering on for an awful long time.”
Leonard’s doctors made the decision to send him home after the two-week period, but what factors did they consider? When did they know it was the right time?
“There’s a couple of things and some of them are very obvious. Is the patient getting better? That’s the first question you’re going to ask. Do they still require oxygen? Are they out of the ICU?” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, infectious disease doctor, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Dr. Adalja said doctors also consider a patient’s life at home: is there someone there to help and monitor the person’s symptoms?
“Some hospitals will have kind of a bridge where you might have home healthcare visits, you might have people with a portable pulse Ox, you might have text message check-in, there’s a lot of innovative ways to get people out of the hospital faster and safely.”
Leonard decided to try the home healthcare.
“[The doctor said] you’re well enough to go home with home healthcare. We have a visiting nurse,” said Leonard. “He had set everything up where I had oxygen here at my home.”
Leonard tells KDKA’s Meghan Schiller he wants to offer this advice to anyone hesitant to seek help.
“Actually, the night before I went [to the hospital,] I stayed up most of the night because I was afraid I would stop breathing. It was that bad,” said Leonard. “So, when it gets to that point when you feel short of breath and you’re starting to become concerned- take action. Don’t wait it out. Don’t tough it out.”
Even once a patient returns home, no one should expect a miraculous recovery. Dr. Adalja said the whole “feeling better in a few days” doesn’t apply to COVID-19. He tells KDKA if a person is sent home and starts feeling worse, that’s the right time to go back to the emergency room.