Lincoln woman still trying to recover from COVID-19 a year later


LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – For long-haul COVIDs, building lung strength is a necessary step in returning to normal life. For Lincoln’s wife Kelli Finke, a year after contracting COVID-19 and then having to use oxygen, she is working hard to get back to normal, going through pulmonary rehabilitation at CHI Health St. Elizabeth in Lincoln.

Before contracting COVID-19 in October 2020, Kelli Finke was an active woman. She said she walked almost four to five miles on the treadmill each day. Now, she can hardly accomplish her daily tasks without her oxygen tank.

“I’m a mover and a hobbyist, and that’s not me,” Finke said.

Kelli Finke in pulmonary rehabilitation(Madison Pitsch)

Finke, who is in her 50s, said she smoked for almost 25 years, but quit 16 years ago and never felt the effects of smoking.

A week after contracting COVID-19, Finke was hospitalized but never intubated. Due to her age and general good health, she expected the recovery to go smoothly, but it was not.

“Something basic like going up the stairs is enough to get me out,” Finke said.

After a multitude of doctor’s appointments, his doctors recommended pulmonary rehabilitation.

“I want to be where I was before COVID,” Finke said. “I don’t know if that will ever happen. But I’m ready to adapt to whatever the future holds.

Kelli Finke in pulmonary rehabilitation
Kelli Finke in pulmonary rehabilitation(Madison Pitsch)

Finke is the type of patient respiratory therapists like Tiffany Quicke see in their hospitals. She is younger and otherwise healthy.

“They work very hard in rehabilitation,” said respiratory therapist Tiffany Quicke. “We’re still having a hard time removing them from oxygen right now.”

Pulmonary rehabilitation typically involves working with weights and bands, as well as walking on treadmills and sometimes even ellipticals. It is designed to increase lung strength, so people like Finke don’t have to depend on oxygen to do their daily activities.

Kelli Finke in pulmonary rehabilitation
Kelli Finke in pulmonary rehabilitation(Madison Pitsch)

Even still, Finke is realistic about the possibility of having to stay on oxygen after therapy.

“Honestly, I just want them to have the lungs to the point where it’s as good as I’m going to be,” Finke said. “I need to see where it is to know how to adapt. “

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