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St. Charles

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The statue of St. Charles outside the hospital. Photo by Marilyn Fabbricante

So much attention has been paid to the people who come down with COVID-19, the inability to breath, being put on a ventilator and the struggle to deal with the massive influx of patients seen just a few short months ago. 

Laura Beck, the VP of rehab at St. Charles, says they have taken what they learned from other rehab programs and used them for COVID patients. Photo from St. Charles

However, not nearly as much focus has been paid to those who struggled and survived the ordeal, particularly those with lasting health impacts.

That’s something St. Charles Hospital is trying to rectify with a new Post COVID Rehabilitation Program, which offers physical therapy for those who are still feeling the health impacts of living with the virus.

The rehab program officially started Sept. 7, and currently has two people starting their recovery. Hospital rehab officials said they are hosting evaluations with more people to initiate them into the group setting.

Laura Beck, St. Charles’ vice president of rehabilitation, said there is very little available data that discusses exactly what are the health impacts of people after they’ve already suffered through the virus, but anecdotally, people have described profound muscle weakness, joint pain and many issues with patients’ ability to breath, even long after they have come off a ventilator. One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association back in July, showed that close to 87% of hospitalized COVID patients reported lingering symptoms for two months or more after the fact.

Building off the rehabilitation program the hospital has for pulmonary patients, St. Charles has designed the new COVID rehab with the same mindset.

“The most frequently reported symptom that does exist is shortness of breath and fatigue, followed by joint pain,” she said. “All three of those things are frequently addressed by physical therapy, and were commonly addressed in our pulmonary rehab program. We had the staff and experience to address these things.”

Post-COVID patients are given an initial evaluation and then are put into a group setting to be treated by a physical therapist, similar to what St. Charles does in other rehab settings. Toward the end of each patients’ time they are given another quality of life assessment as well as an endurance test to see how much they improve physically. 

A few outpatient care facilities have launched post-COVID rehabilitation, but St. Charles is one of the first major hospitals on Long Island to offer an in-house clinic in a traditional group setting. 

How many physical therapists eventually get involved depends on how large the program becomes. Currently the class size is kept small to try and space people out and adhere to social distancing. For patients that cannot tolerate a group program, Beck said they do plan to offer a more one-on-one situation until they can be put into the full exercise class.

Director of St. Charles’s Rehabilitation Services Pattianne Ruppel said most likely people who are feeling lasting effects of COVID are older, though that’s not always the case. Those who were young and/or asymptomatic likely wouldn’t feel any lasting symptoms. 

Because so little is known about what are the true lasting health effects from being crippled by the coronavirus, the St. Charles officials in charge of rehabilitation said this is also a chance to start gathering data on what is common amongst post-COVID patients. If they get enough people in the program, the St. Charles officials said they could even look to put out their own information.

“We would all love to say that some time in the future we won’t need this program,” Ruppel said. “We still see people with these lasting respiratory symptoms, so I definitely see a need for sure.”

Dr. Edmunde Stewart had a passion for riding horses. Photo Courtesy of the Steart family

By Vicky Stewart

Dr. Edmunde Andrew Cameron Stewart, 80, died Dec. 6 in St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, surrounded by the love of his family. Stewart had been fighting pneumonia. For the past several years, after being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his lungs were compromised.

The Stewart family is most known for living on Old Field Road for many years, where he and his wife, Norma, raised their three children. Stewart was an orthopedic surgeon working at St. Charles Hospital and Mather Hospital, serving as the chief of orthopedics at Mather, for many years, and as a past president of the medical staff at both St. Charles and Mather. He had a private practice on Elm Street in Port Jefferson.

Stewart was also an exceptional equestrian and had a passion for foxhunting. He was the master of the Smithtown Hunt Club and a president of the Smithtown Hunt Horse Show. He is remembered affectionately by fellow foxhunters as “Doc” as he would often help injured riders, during a foxhunt. For many years, he moderated the hunt breakfast, to benefit the museums at Stony Brook. He also served three terms as a trustee for the Village of Old Field.

Although medicine and horses were his passions, his greatest love was his family. Right until the end, with family by his side, he was letting them know how much he loved them.

His legacy will live on through his loving family, who adored him. He leaves behind his wife of 56 years, Norma; his son Greg; daughters Victoria and Gillian; and son-in-law Juan. He was a loving grandpa to his four grandchildren, Olivia, Cameron, Benjamin and Emilia, all who affectionately called him “Deda.”

Stewart was a native of Dundee, Scotland. He was predeceased by his father Andrew Stewart, mother Winifred Byrd Lennox and sister Winifred Lennox Govan.

Stewart entered St. Andrew’s University Medical School in Scotland at the age of 17. Upon graduation in 1961, he did two specialty residences in Scotland: internal medicine and orthopedics. In 1962-63, he taught anatomy at St. Andrew’s University. He came to the United States in 1963 and served his residency in orthopedics at Nassau Hospital, Meadowbrook Hospital and here at St. Charles. He became a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in 1971, and the following year he received his fellow of American College of Surgeons. He also served in the Army Reserve, as a reserve commissioned officer  for the United States Army.

The doctor was a man of many talents. His children remember him playing the trumpet and the piano. Prior to entering medical school, he had spent many years on the stage, as a member of the Dundee Repertory Theatre, with starring roles in productions of “Oliver Twist” and “Great Expectations,” to name a few. At the same time, although busy on the stage and with his studies, Stewart managed to find some time to participate in one of his favorite sports. For two years, he was the junior champion of the West End Lawn Tennis Club, a prominent private tennis club in his native Dundee.

While at St. Andrews, Stewart was a member of the university’s fencing team, touring England, Ireland and Scotland and in the process obtaining his “full blue” for the university.

He was laid to rest Dec. 10 at the Caroline Church of Brookhaven in Setauket, on a beautiful sunny day, with a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace,” in the distance.

“Every man dies, not every man lives” is a quote he was fond of, by William Wallace, a freedom fighter from Scotland near the end of the 13th century. This quote is a great testament to the fact that Stewart truly lived and lived with passion, until the very end. His fighting spirit and love for life will live on in all who knew him.