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Life after ventilators can be hard for coronavirus survivors

When covid-19 infected people descend into ventilator limbo, critical-care doctors know some will never fully recover, and those who do, often must relearn basic skills such as walking and swallowing. Although the mechanical device pushes life-saving oxygen deep into damaged lungs, yet it also is feared for the damage it inflicts. The lucky ones pull through, but their journey back to health is long and perilous. Hospitals are gearing up to treat these survivors, some are setting up entire rehabilitation floors to help people coming off ventilators, learn how to live again.

Dr. Sara Aliboni, is a physiatrist, also know as physician, who specializes in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She is a highly trained medical professional who focuses on whole body treatment for the musculoskeletal system and its pain-causing disorders. A physiatrist diagnoses, manages, and treats pain from injury, illness, or medical conditions, predominantly using physical means for recovery such as physical therapy and medicine. The goal of a physiatrist is to help patients recover their functional wellbeing and to return to a healthy and functional life. She works at Versilia Hospital, where a covid rehabilitation unit has been set in place. Patients who have been on ventilators due to coronavirus infection, are sent from all northern Tuscany. Sara and her colleagues, directed by Professor Federico Posteraro, deal with patients who are unable to walk, swallow and are in pain. The risk of contracting the virus is still there, some patients are still positive to the test, but need to regain some kind of independence before being allowed to self-isolate in special places outside the hospital. She is 44, has a companion and a daughter of 10, who is now living with Sara’s parents. She doesn’t like the term “heros” given to the doctors and nurses, “I don’t feel like a hero, but like a normal person who’s just doing her job,” she says.