Richmond-area rehab program helps COVID-19 long haulers get back on their feet

COVID-19 Vaccine

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Doctors have said exercise and rehabilitation can help those suffering from the long-term effects of COVID-19 recover faster. Brenda Smith of Chesterfield is living proof of it.

Nine weeks ago, she couldn’t drive, go to the grocery store and could barely walk. Today, the 77-year-old woman is walking miles on the treadmill and doing squats with a weighted ball.

Smith said it’s all thanks to the Post-COVID-19 Recovery and Rehabilitative Care Program at Sheltering Arms.

“I am so thankful for this place,” Smith said. “When you come here you get encouragement, you get hope,”

Smith is a COVID-19 long hauler.

“I couldn’t move my legs without screaming,” she said. “I was in so much pain. I had so much inflammation in my legs and my feet.”

Months after having the virus, she was still having debilitating symptoms.

“Loss of memory, loss of hair, loss of smell,” Smith said. “My biggest problem was weakness in my legs.”

After several weeks of hour-long sessions with physical therapist Jason Seltzer at Sheltering Arms Bon Air Center, she’s back on her feet.

“At the beginning, she couldn’t even do half those exercises,” Seltzer said.

Seltzer, who runs the Post-COVID-19 Rehabilitation Program at Sheltering Arms, has seen Smith make great strides. He said with any illness rehab is the key to recovery.

“I think a lot of people in the community are still in a position where they don’t know what to do with their symptoms,” Seltzer said.

He told 8News the therapy is personalized depending on a patient’s needs.

“In some patients, it is really focusing on breathing work,” he said.

However, whatever the program is, it is always about function.

“I really think it is important to tailor what we do in therapy around what a person does in their daily life. To me that exercise looks like picking something up off the ground and putting it on a shelf over their head,” he said, as Smith picked up a weighted ball and lifted it over her head.

Smith has just one more session to go and she said she feels good.

“Power to overcome is a great motto for them because they really work toward that goal,” she said.

Smith admits COVID can take a lot away from a person but believes most can get better. She said they just have to be willing to fight for it.

If you’re interested in the Post-Covid Rehabilitation Program at Sheltering Arms, it’s suggested that you talk with your physician. However, you can call and make an appointment as well. The number to call is (804) 764-1000. You can also make an appointment online at

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