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The long haul: Woman learns how to walk again after battle with COVID-19

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Marion Karin Scanlon, 82, of Henderson County, spent a month in the hospital when she got COVID-19 last August, and since then has had to physical and speech therapy due to lasting effects of the virus on her body as well as her mind. She spoke with News 13 on Jan. 21 about her experience. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

Henderson County resident Marion Karin Scanlon said she spent nearly a month at Mission Hospital last August after getting COVID-19.

"It was pretty touch and go there for a while," Scanlon said.

After she was discharged at the hospital, she spent a few weeks in a skilled nursing rehab facility.

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The 82-year-old said she was very active before she contracted COVID-19. But after her battle with the virus, she said she could barely walk, let alone sit up in a chair.

"When you're in bed that long, three weeks, your muscles just atrophy, and when you start to sit in a chair, it hurts. It's very, very painful," Scanlon said.

She even had to give up her beloved golden retriever, Buddy, because of her physical state.

She said COVID-19 also had lasting impacts on her memory and mood.

"It's foggy in your brain. What happened to me -- I was very short-tempered. I would just say things or cut people off," she said.

She underwent physical and speech therapy from CarePartners, an affiliate of Mission Health that offers home-health rehabilitation as well as outpatient therapy across Western North Carolina.

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For about a month, home-health physical therapist Katherine Taylor helped the once-active woman get her feet back under her.

"We did a lot of things with her leg-strengthening, balance. For her, we did a lot of walking and that aerobic conditions while I monitored her vitals," Taylor said.

Scanlon has since regained much of her mobility, but her hair, which she also lost due to COVID-19, is still growing back.

"With the yoga I do, and the exercise I do, and the care I had from CarePartners, I'm moving along, not as I was originally, but I would say 75 to 80 % okay," Scanlon said.

These days, though, she's thankful for not just every step, but every breath.

"It's hard. It's hard. But you learn to respect what you can do, and you're grateful. I could've died," Scanlon said.

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One of the people who helped her get her life back, Katherine Taylor, said therapy can help a lot of COVID-19 long-haulers dealing with movement and memory issues like Scanlon.

"Generalized weakness, decreased stamina, decreased activity tolerance, the brain fog which Miss Scanlon talked about, decreased memory, short term memory issues," Taylor said. "With this being a new virus, maybe with therapy, if we intervene earlier, some of those effects wouldn't last so long."

If you are a COVID-19 long-hauler in need of help, visit Missionhealth.org/carepartners or call 828-277-4800 for more information.

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