Hillcrest South pulmonary rehab program changes patient's outlook

Bob Silvis had been hit so hard by COVID-19 that just a few months ago he did not know if he would make it through the year.

The Sand Springs resident has a vastly different perspective after recently completing the Hillcrest Hospital South pulmonary rehabilitation program.

“It’s not only worked, but it’s put me ahead,” Silvis said. “It’s given me a different outlook. (COVID-19) was a brush of death.”

Silvis tested positive with coronavirus and twice developed infections. He was diagnosed with acute respiratory distress and chronic lung disease. He was hospitalized on two occasions, one that required a 20-day ICU stay.

The recovery period took a toll on Silvis, both physically and mentally. Forced into early retirement, he struggled to complete many routine tasks without assistance. The 62-year-old believed his outlook was bleak.

“I had almost come to the realization that that’s how it was going to be,” Silvis said. “I was going to continue to get sick. I just figured my body systems were going to continue to tire out until I died. I prayed to God to let me die.”

His primary doctor, Emily Grewe-Nelson, D.O., a family medicine specialist with Utica Park Clinic, asked Silvis if he would be willing to try the pulmonary rehabilitation program at Hillcrest South. Silvis agreed.

“I told her I’ll try anything,” Silvis said.

Silvis, a former charge nurse himself, worked through the 18-session program and witnessed extraordinary changes in his physical state along the way. When he first began rehabilitation, he could not walk further than 250 feet due to fatigue. As his stamina began to build, Silvis was soon able cover nearly 850 feet without wearing down.

Silvis got married just prior to the pandemic. His condition improved enough during rehab that he was able take a trip to New Orleans to celebrate his honeymoon.

Silvis said he now enjoys many of the things he used to take for granted.

“I can walk,” he said. “I can do things. I don’t just have to lay in bed. Before that’s all I did. Lay in bed and watch TV. Now I can get up and do things. I can get up and go places.”

Silvis credits the pulmonary rehabilitation program with his improvement.

“I’m just amazed at their encouragement,” he said. “A little shove every now and then to get us ahead but the encouragement is just unbelievable.”

Lisa Carr, a Hillcrest South registered respiratory therapist, said Silvis’ story, unfortunately, is a common tale for patients entering the program. Carr said witnessing the change in both mind and body that can take place is a special experience. 

“A lot of people are discouraged,” Carr said. “It’s hard to find that self-motivation. Sometimes it’s heart-breaking because you know these people were active and very involved with family, friends and work and it’s almost like they had to give that up. There is a grieving process that goes along with that …We try to encourage them to do the best that they can so they can regain some of what they’ve lost. For me, it’s neat to see that transformation.”

Silvis’ improvement was so significant that Grewe-Nelson described the difference in him as “astounding” after a recent check-up.

Even with the rehabilitation program under his belt, Silvis is continuing to build on his newfound energy. He plans to enroll in a water aerobics class. He also has plans to enjoy life with his two young grandchildren.

“I’d like to be able to walk through the zoo with them,” Silvis said. “That’s one of my goals. And I’m going to meet it because I’ve got it set in my head that I can do it. Before I came (to the pulmonary rehabilitation program), there were no goals. The goal was to die peacefully and I’m not doing that now.”

Are you continuing to experience health issues more than eight weeks after being diagnosed with COVID-19? Call 918-579-DOCS (3627) to schedule a recovery consultation.

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