Public health officials have been warning about a recent increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19, and new data from Alberta Health reveals just how long those sick with the disease are staying in hospital.
More than 540 Albertans have been hospitalized to date and patients in non-intensive care units spent more than 10 days in hospital, on average.
For those admitted to ICU, the average stay was even longer: nearly 13 days.
Some of those patients ended up dying, but many who survived would face a long recovery even after being discharged, says Amy Tan, a family-medicine physician and professor at the University of Calgary.
“A person doesn’t just jump out of bed and resume back to normal activity,” she said. “There will be an element of rehab to regain muscle mass that has been lost.”
Those who have been on a ventilator may also suffer from diminished lung capacity and other issues, she notes.
There’s also a psychological element to extended stays in hospital, especially intensive care, and Tan says there is growing evidence that some patients go on to suffer symptoms similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It is such a life-changing event,” Tan said.
About 5% of cases wind up in hospital
To date, more than 10,000 Albertans have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and roughly five per cent have required hospitalization.
Older people are more likely to be hospitalized but younger people have had serious outcomes, as well.
About two per cent of patients in their 30s and nearly three per cent of patients in their 40s ended up in hospital.
That compares with about six per cent of patients in their 50s, 11 per cent of patients in their 60s and 29 per cent of patients in their 70s.
Jay Chowdhury, 51, spent 47 days in hospital after getting COVID-19 earlier this year. That included 25 days in a coma.
His wife, a health-care worker, also ended up catching the virus, as did all three of their children.
“COVID is a serious thing,”.
Peter Ruptash, 64, survived a lengthy stay in hospital and says he’s still suffering after-effects of the disease.
“It is very frightening, especially going from a relatively healthy 60-something person to somebody who can’t make the stairs,”.
“I [used to] try to walk perhaps 4,000 steps a day.”
In April, Ruptash was admitted to hospital, where he spent 39 days before being discharged.
He says he still experiences weakness, fatigue, a lack of stamina, brain fog and dizziness.
“It just goes on and on,” he said.