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Lincoln woman still trying to recover from COVID-19 a year later

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 5:32 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - For COVID Longhaulers, building up lung strength is a necessary step in the return to normal life. For Lincoln woman, Kelli Finke, a year after contracting COVID-19 and then having to use oxygen, she is working to return to normal, by going through pulmonary rehab at CHI Health St. Elizabeth in Lincoln.

Prior to contracting COVID-19 in October of 2020, Kelli Finke was an active woman. She said she logged nearly four to five miles on the treadmill every day. Now, she can hardly do everyday tasks without her oxygen tank.

“I am a mover and a goer, and this is not me,” said Finke.

Kelli Finke in pulmonary rehab
Kelli Finke in pulmonary rehab(Madison Pitsch)

Finke, who is in her 50s, said she did smoke for nearly 25 years, but quit 16 years ago, and had never felt the effects of smoking.

A week after contracting COVID-19, Finke was hospitalized but never intubated. Because of her age and generally good health, she expected recovery to go smoothly, but that’s not been the case.

“Something basic, like going up the stairs is enough to take me out,” said Finke.

After a slew of doctor’s appointments, her physicians recommended pulmonary rehabilitation.

“I want to be where I was before COVID,” said Finke. “I don’t know that that’s ever going to happen. But I’m prepared to adjust to whatever the future has for me.”

Kelli Finke in pulmonary rehab
Kelli Finke in pulmonary rehab(Madison Pitsch)

Finke is the type of patient respiratory therapists like Tiffany Quicke have been seeing in their hospitals. She is younger and otherwise healthy.

“They’re working really hard in rehab,” said respiratory therapist Tiffany Quicke. “We’re still having trouble getting them off of oxygen right now.”

Pulmonary rehab usually involves working with weights and bands, as well as walking on treadmills and sometimes even ellipticals. It’s designed to increase lung strength, so people like Finke don’t have to depend on oxygen to do everyday activities.

Kelli Finke in pulmonary rehab
Kelli Finke in pulmonary rehab(Madison Pitsch)

Even still, Finke is realistic about the possibility of having to remain on oxygen after therapy.

“I honestly just want them to get my lungs to the point where this is as good as I’m going to get,” said Finke. “I need to see where that is so I can figure out how to adjust.”

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