June 11, 2020 / 6:16 PM / 2 months ago

COVID-19 patients learn to walk again at Barcelona hospital

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Beating the coronavirus was only the first step towards recovery for patients at a Barcelona rehabilitation centre providing treatment for a range of debilitating after-effects.

Ramon Fite, 67, a recovered COVID-19 patient, undergoes rehabilitation with physical therapists at the Hospital Vall d'Hebron facility, a hastily converted sports centre, in Barcelona, Spain, June 10, 2020. Picture taken June 10, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

“Between 15 and 45 percent of patients with COVID have some type of complication, these can be neurological, respiratory, motor and psychological,” said Dr Judith Sanchez, head of the Vall d’Hebron hospital’s physical medicine and rehabilitation centre.

While some patients walk out of intensive care without any issues, others - particularly those who spent long periods under sedation - are left unable to walk or speak and sometimes suffer memory loss and anxiety attacks, she said.

At the Vall d’Hebron facility, a hastily converted sports centre, patients learn to re-use their limbs, gingerly stepping and stretching beneath banks of seats that once held spectators.

Daniel Catey, 62, suffered several strokes during a three-week induced coma in an intensive care unit. “I was unable to move the left half of my body - my arm, my leg,” he said.

Now he is able to walk, stiffly, along a painted line on the floor with assistance from a physiotherapist.

“I am happy with what I have, I do not envy anyone,” he said.

Spain suffered one of the world’s most severe coronavirus outbreaks, which killed 27,000 people and overwhelmed the health service. At its peak, the country registered thousands of new cases and hundreds of deaths a day.

During one day in March, Sanchez recalled her hospital was admitting one patient to intensive care every hour.

A tight lockdown helped bring the outbreak under control and her team is now able to focus on guiding patients through the next stage of recovery.

“We see that they recover, that all these complications evolve favourably. People are happy and we have been able to treat them.”

Reporting by Jordi Rubio, Luis Felipe Castilleja and Nacho Doce; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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