Duke Health doctor describes recovery process for long-haul COVID-19 patients

Local News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — After seven months in the hospital battling COVID-19, Frankie Ballard is now back home.

“Oh, that was a tough road,” Ballard said.

CBS17’s Nick Sturdivant recently interviewed Ballard and his wife Revonda days after he was discharged from the hospital and back in Harnett County.

“I’m just thankful that he’s here,” Revonda said as she wiped away tears.

Ballard bounced around to seven different hospitals getting treatment and at one point was in a coma.

In August, he began in-patient rehab at Duke Regional Hospital in Durham.

“When he came to us, he was very weak. He had the little tremor in both arms and both legs from just being so weak,” explained Dr. Jairon Downs.

Downs is with Duke Health and is Ballard’s rehab doctor.

“We are seeing a lot of the ones that get severe from COVID needing to be intubated [and] needing to be in the ICU. They can develop muscle or nerve inflammation or weakness from being critical. So, we see a lot of patients needing a prolonged rehabilitation course,” Downs said.

Downs said they are also sending patients to outpatient therapy and sometimes nursing facilities to help patients recover.

As for Ballard, Downs said he has made great strides since August.

“He had started where he needed 75 to almost 100 percent assistance with everything. So, he made some very dramatic recovery over the time with us, but he’ll continue in-home therapy probably for 4 to 8 weeks,” he said.

Downs also said a big goal is to get Ballard to the point where he doesn’t need an oxygen machine.

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