Jim’s story: Overcoming COVID-19

COVID-19 Success stories

by Elaine Veltri

Jim Capicotto was unable to walk, confused and extremely weak.

For more than two weeks, the 75-year-old Calabash, North Carolina, resident was hospitalized as he battled COVID-19. He successfully beat the illness, but it robbed him of the strength and coordination he needed to perform even the most basic of day-to-day activities.

Already battling the effects of Parkinson’s disease, Capicotto and his partner, Joyce Klein, weren’t sure what the future held for the U.S. Navy veteran.

“It really threw him for a loop,” Klein said. “It was really hard to see him so sick. He was pretty critical.”

To help regain his strength and mobility, Capicotto was sent to Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Hospital at Little River, an affiliate of Encompass Health, where he underwent 10 days of intensive therapy to regain his independence.

A double whammy

When Capicotto fell ill with COVID-19, it was a double whammy because he also has Parkinson’s disease, Klein said. COVID-19 can be especially serious for patients with underlying health conditions.

“Parkinson’s patients tend to have a more complicated course and more difficult recovery due to their degenerative neurologic condition,” said Dr. Lisa Tarbert-Smaldone, medical director at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Hospital. “They are a great example of a group of patients who benefit from constantly moving and the intensity of what only we are able to do at inpatient rehab. Movement and motion are key in an aging population, but especially those who have neurodegenerative conditions.”

Unable to visit Capicotto in the hospital because of COVID-19 safety precautions, Klein received updates about Capicotto’s condition via the nurses who cared for him. She also occasionally stood outside his first-floor window to wave and encourage him while they chatted using cell phones. She even got him to laugh when, while standing outside his window, the landscaping sprinkler system activated and drenched her.

“It’s funny the things he doesn’t forget,” said Klein, laughing. “He likes to tell everyone that story.”

Intense effort

During his 10-day stay at the rehabilitation hospital, Capicotto benefited from intense physical, speech and occupational therapy.

“I was trying to get my strength back up,” Capicotto said. “They got me walking around with a walker, had me going up and down stairs and getting  in and out of bed, which was a chore for me. Now, I don’t use the walker anymore. I’ve got a cane, but I often forget to use it.”

Dr. Tarbert-Smaldone said Capicotto, who arrived defeated and sad at the function he’d lost because of COVID-19, made an incredible rebound.

“It was magical to see the transformation that he made in such a short time,” Dr. Tarbert-Smaldone said. “It brings tears to our eyes to see these patients celebrated as they leave our building and are reconnected with their families.”

This article orginal appeared in MyCarolinaLife by Tidelands Health. Click here to read Jim Capicotto full story. Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Hospital is a joint venture of Encompass Health and Tidelands Health. The partnership serves patients through hospital locations in Little River, South Carolina and Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.