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COVID patient shares recovery story

Specialist teams at RPA and Concord care for patients as they recover from COVID

A person presenting with a handheld microphone.
SydneyConnect Image: Patient Tina Cassaniti presenting at the Sydney Innovation and Research Symposium

Tina Cassaniti is gradually working towards a big goal.

"I want to be my old self again," she said.

Tina, 73, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in June 2021 and spent 12 weeks in RPA Hospital — nine of which were in the intensive care unit. She was in an induced coma for 22 days.

"My family didn't know whether I'd survive. The doctors told me it was a miracle that I did," she said.

The virus had a big impact on her body.

"My whole body shut down. I had to learn how to swallow again, talk again and walk again," she said.

Her recovery began while in hospital, with specialist medical, nursing and allied health professionals — including a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, dietician and social worker — involved in her care.

"With their help, I slowly began to regain my strength and learnt how do all of those things again," she said.

Tina shared her story, alongside RPA Pulmonary Rehabilitation Physiotherapist Associate Professor Lissa Spencer, Respiratory Staff Specialist Associate Professor Lauren Troy and Rehabilitation Medicine Specialist, Dr Karen Chia at Sydney Local Health District's Sydney Innovation and Research Symposium.

In September 2021, Tina was discharged from hospital and returned home.

"I was so happy to be out of hospital, but everyday tasks were hard to do. It was difficult to climb stairs without losing my breath, I wasn't strong enough to carry shopping bags or to weed my garden," she said.

Tina was referred to RPA's post-COVID respiratory clinic which provides further support for people affected by COVID pneumonitis.

At her first visit, she saw her respiratory physician, had a chest x-ray, a lung function test and was reviewed by her physiotherapist — and has continued her rehabilitation program over the past eight months.

"The team has been fantastic. I have come so far and couldn't have done it without them. They gave me the confidence to do it," she said.

Tina has the support of her family — her two sons, daughter and her three grandchildren — who have stepped up to help her at home.

"But I want to regain my independence and do things on my own like I used to do. I'm a strong person. I always have been. I'm not going to give up. It's just going to take time."

So far, RPA's post-COVID respiratory clinic has provided care for more than 180 people, while 60 people have been cared for at similar clinic at Concord Hospital.

The District is soon set to launch a multidisciplinary Long COVID Clinic for patients who continue to experience COVID-related symptoms and need longer term care and support.