PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP — Patients who can't seem to fully kick the effects of COVID-19, even months after their first positive test, are the focus of a new program launched by Deborah Heart and Lung Center.

The Post-COVID Recovery Program, under the direction of Dr. Andrew Martin, is also catering to "long-haul" COVID survivors who want to make sure the respiratory illness hasn't created any new health issues.

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"A lot of people are going to come in — they're just going to be anxious, they're just going to need reassurance," Martin told New Jersey 101.5.

New Egypt resident Steven Magnotta contracted the virus at the end of December and was sick for seven weeks, suffering with pneumonia for most of those weeks. He recently became one of the recovery program's first patients.

“I want to feel better, and I want to get checked out to make sure I have no long-term damage," Magnotta said. "By taking the step to come to Deborah’s Post-COVID Recovery Program, I am giving myself a boost to fully heal.”

The specialty heart, lung and vascular hospital has been seeing post-COVID patients throughout the pandemic — this organized program launched a couple weeks ago.

John Hill, Deborah's vice president of pulmonary services, said many patients are presenting with lingering effects of the virus.

"Their breathing may be labored, they may still be weak, and they may have a myriad of other conditions," Hill said. "After a year of studying the coronavirus, we now know that COVID-19 is exceptionally hard on the body, and recovery is not as simple as getting over the flu, especially if during your illness you needed to be on a ventilator."

Eligible patients must be testing negative for an active COVID infection. Patients receive a thorough evaluation, followed by a diagnosis and individualized treatment plan, the hospital said. Treatment may integrate other specialties such as cardiology, hematology, radiology, pulmonary rehab and physical therapy.

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