On December 31, 2021, Berks County resident Cory Heckman, age 31, was admitted to Pottstown Hospital for treatment of COVID-19. The severity of the disease led to an extended hospital stay where he was cared for in the Intensive Care Unit with severe COVID pneumonia and neuropathy that required a tracheostomy to help him breathe. One hundred and forty-nine days later, Cory went home under his own power.
After 114 days at Pottstown Hospital, Cory was transferred via TowerDirect ambulance to Reading Hospital Rehabilitation at Wyomissing (RHRW), where he spent an additional 35 days. When he arrived at RHRW, Cory was completely dependent on others for care, required a lift to move from one place to another, still had his tracheostomy for breathing, and needed a feeding tube.
While at RHRW, Cory had to relearn how to eat, bathe, and walk. While he learned how to use a wheelchair and walker, his main goal was to walk independently again.
"I couldn't do anything. They taught me how to live," he said.
To prepare for his discharge home, the Rehab team worked with Cory to ensure he was able to walk both on carpet and while using his oxygen tank.
On May 26, 2022, Cory was discharged from RHRW and needing only supervision for transfers, wheelchair mobility, and walking 40 feet at a time with a walker or cane. He also left without a tracheostomy and is back on a general diet, no longer needing the PEG tube. He said, "Being able to walk again was huge but everything is gained by starting small."
As an added surprise for his mother who picked him up at his discharge, Cory was able to walk out of the facility using only a cane.
"I wish Cory well as he continues to recover from COVID-19," said P. Sue Perrotty, Tower Health President and CEO. "His determination and resiliency impressed everyone, and I thank his dedicated care teams at Pottstown Hospital and Reading Hospital Rehabilitation at Wyomissing for providing such great care. Their compassion and commitment to Cory, and all their patients, is admirable."
Debra Powell, MD, Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases at Reading Hospital, added, "I thank Cory for sharing his story to help educate the community on how severe COVID-19 can be, even in young patients, when they become infected. I encourage everyone to receive their COVID vaccination and booster shots as they are critical and help discourage serious illness and hospitalization."
About Tower Health
Tower Health is a regional integrated healthcare system that offers leading-edge, compassionate healthcare and wellness services to communities in Berks, Chester, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties. With nearly 12,000 team members, Tower Health consists of Reading Hospital in West Reading; Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia; Phoenixville Hospital in Phoenixville; Pottstown Hospital in Pottstown; and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, a partnership of Tower Health and Drexel University in Philadelphia. It also includes Reading Hospital Rehabilitation at Wyomissing; Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences in West Reading; home healthcare provided by Tower Health at Home; TowerDirect ambulance and emergency response; Tower Health Medical Group; and a network of 25 urgent care facilities across the Tower Health service area. For more information, visit towerhealth.org.