For those of us lucky enough to get off ventilators, our lives are not the same. Many patients who come off ventilators suffer lasting physical, mental and emotional issues, including cognitive deficits, lost jobs and psychological issues, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

For me, my lungs must rebuild their capacity. I experience breathlessness from even mild exertion. I used to run marathons; now I can’t walk across a room or up a flight of stairs without getting winded. I can’t go around the block for fresh air unless my husband pushes me in a wheelchair. When I shower, I can’t stand the entire time; I take breaks from standing to sit down on a plastic stool I have placed inside my bathtub.

Being on the ventilator for almost a week damaged my vocal cords, and now my voice is extremely hoarse. My speech pathologist expressed optimism that the damage is not permanent. Only time will tell.