The Genoa gymnasium where Covid survivors are rehabilitated

AGI – On the plate at the entrance there is the anonymous writing “gym”. Inside exercise bikes and benches make you think of a normal fitness room, were it not for the people in medical coats and the stories of athletes engaged in exercises.

It is about people who survived the covid, but to whom the disease has left heavy aftermath: mainly shortness of breath, exhaustion, little physical strength. In that anonymous environment, located inside the Palasalute della Fiumara in Genoa, these particular athletes begin to live again, to regain control of their body that the virus had taken away from them.

“We have taken on the task of recalling the patients passed by our ASL 3 structures who had had a positive swab – explains Piero Calvario, manager of the rehabilitation process of the structure – The follow up and the various checks of this structure, however, are valid for those who had pneumonia and were hospitalized. We contacted about a thousand people and, of these, more than 250 came here to Palasalute for an evaluation which was not only cardiological, but also inherent in other specialties “.

Once the conditions of the patients have been ascertained, they “are then directed to the most suitable path, from the potential discharge, to the taking in charge of a pulmonologist, a neurologist – continues the doctor – Some instead are diverted here, especially when their functional capacity – employment is reduced or in some way compromised by Covid. Of these 250, we took care of about 60 in the gym “.

On average, at least 2 months of rehabilitation intervention are planned for each patient. To date, of the 60 taken care of, about 50 have completed the cycle and others are starting it in these days.

Two young people aged 15 and 16 were also assisted

“We have seen everything – says Calvario – from the blind lady who always came with her guide dog, to the diver who needed to go back diving. There are many sportsmen who have contracted Covid and, despite being in great shape before the disease, they needed to recover. We had young people, like a 15-year-old boy, a 16-year-old, so the fact that Covid only affects the elderly is true to a certain extent “.

The shifts in the gym are 2, each of 15-20 people with a stay of at least 2 months: “The numbers are absolutely lower than what would be necessary, but we do what we can – observes the doctor – With a bigger gym, of course we would have could have followed more “.

The equipment room not only hosts covid patients, but also heart patients: “We have started to treat them too since we were able to vaccinate them” explains the manager of the facility. Once inside, Agi meets 53-year-old Sandro on the exercise bike. Hospitalized on 11 October last, he went in and out of hospitals twice because of Covid: “I had had bilateral pneumonia and therefore I was no longer breathing as well as before – he says – I was short of breath and a lot of tiredness. It must be said that I did a lot of sporting activity before my illness and maybe it helped me. I’ve been here for 15 days, but I have already seen progress. Before completing my rehabilitation, however, I will have to practice here at least another month. “

A little farther on, shorts and a T-shirt, Michele, 35, rides on another exercise bike. Hospitalized last November for 12 days, he had to use a helmet for three days because he could no longer breathe on his own: “It was quite annoying, but it saved my life because I had the chance to catch my breath again. Now I’m doing rehabilitation from about a month and it’s much better: I was short of breath and closed lungs which, however, I now feel expanding again. I’ll have to spend another month here before I can sing victory. ”

In the gym there is also a Labrador who accompanies the visually impaired mistress

A little dog wanders among them, a Labrador: for weeks he has been accompanying his visually impaired mistress, who is also engaged in exercises. Beside him sitting on a bench and doing leg exercises is Daniele, 63, who contracted the infection in October: “They treated me at home, but I was short of breath and, when I heard of this structure, I took advantage of the opportunity and I came with my wife, who was also infected by the virus – he explains – I am now strengthening the leg muscles that had weakened a lot. Today we finish the two months and I must say that we are finally back to walking down the street and climbing stairs with much less effort than before “.

Calvario explains that the patients “ask us their own goals. This morning one of them told us he wanted to reach the sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia, in Genoa, by bicycle. We will train him to do this”.

Between the patients of the first and those of the second wave, the professor emphasizes, there are no substantial differences: “The disease is always the same – underlines Calvario – a certain number of patients, it is still not clear why, they continue to have muscle problems, lack of strength, so they are tired, fatigued, even if all the instrumental tests are fine. And it is something already seen for Sars 1 and MERS: patients who still had weakness after 6-8-10 months “.

Even the president of Liguria and councilor for health, Giovanni Toti, wanted to compliment the work done in the structure: “This post-covid rehabilitation gym was also visited by professionals from other countries – said the governor – It is an example of great collaboration between several medical specialties for a total recovery from the disease, so here we are already a step further “.

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