Professional diver Emiliano Pescarolo contracted coronavirus in March and spent 17 days in hospital in the Italian port city of Genoa before being discharged on April 10.
Now, three months later, the 42-year-old still experiences breathing difficulties. “Once back home, even after weeks I couldn’t see any progress: if I took a small walk, it was like climbing Mount Everest. I was out of breath also just for talking. I was very worried,” he said.
Pescarolo is one of dozens of former Covid patients now receiving care at a rehabilitation clinic in Genoa – and says he is starting to see some progress.
For much of Europe, the peak of Covid-19 infections has passed. But while hospitals are no longer awash with acute cases, there are thousands of people who had either confirmed or suspected Covid and, weeks or months later, say they are far from fully recovered.
In the United Kingdom, communities of “long Covid” sufferers have spring up online, as people try to manage what appear to be long-term effects of a virus about which much remains unknown.
Meanwhile, health authorities in the UK and Italy, two of the European nations worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, are starting to offer rehabilitation services to Covid-19 survivors.
These will likely need to be wide-ranging, since research now indicates that coronavirus is a multi-system disease that can damage not only the lungs, but the kidneys, liver, heart, brain and nervous system, skin and gastrointestinal tract.
Dr Piero Clavario, director of the post-Covid rehab institute attended by Pescarolo in Genoa, said his team had started contacting several hundred Covid-survivors treated by hospitals in the district in May. Of those, they have now visited more than 50.
“They are not only those that were in ICU and intubated because of Covid, but also patients that spent not more than three days in the hospitals and then went home,” he said. “We investigate aspects that escape standard virological and pulmonary exams.”