Grand Blanc COVID-19 Survivor Conquers Darkest Days with Pulmonary Rehab

COVID-19 survivor Charles Carpenter, a 75-year-old Grand Blanc resident, has conquered one challenge after another over the past eight months. His last obstacle is getting his lungs strong enough to stay off portable oxygen.

Carpenter’s COVID-19 story started in June 2020 when he had to be hospitalized due to the illness. He spent nearly six weeks in an area hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) before improving enough to be transferred to Select Specialty Care, located at McLaren Flint. After a week of continued improvement in this transitional care unit he became a candidate for inpatient rehabilitation at McLaren Flint.

“When I arrived on the Rehab unit I was in a wheelchair, on oxygen and I could only stand for nine seconds,” said Carpenter. “The staff was so encouraging to me. I really wanted to walk but my legs were so weak. I had rehabilitation twice a day and even got to use the Lift Gait system to help me walk. I left that unit on August 25 using a walker, but I was still on oxygen.”

The next step in his recovery was outpatient physical and occupational therapy at McLaren Flint’s outpatient therapy clinic. After a month of devoted therapy there, staff had Carpenter using his walker less and they recommended he consider beginning pulmonary rehabilitation to strengthen his lungs. When he started pulmonary rehabilitation, he was still on supplemental oxygen.

“Mr. Carpenter is the kind of patient who asks what he needs to do to get better and then goes about doing it,” said Kim DeJonghe, registered respiratory therapist at McLaren’s Pulmonary Rehab Program. “This is the best place for COVID patients who are on oxygen due to the illness. We can help them safely wean off it, like Charles has.”

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a combination of education about medicines, diet, breathing and exercise. Patients also spend time doing a customized exercise routine during their appointments. McLaren Flint’s pulmonary rehab program has been helping patients for over 40 years and is one of the oldest such programs in Michigan.

“I can’t say enough about all of my caregivers, family and friends who helped me along the way,” said Carpenter. “Now, I’m working with outstanding pulmonary rehab staff - they’re true professionals. They’re always checking on me, but they also put trust in you to do the exercises they teach you at the right pace. I no longer need a walker or oxygen.”

During his darkest time fighting COVID-19, Carpenter only has the memories relayed to him by his sister who was getting updates about his status. When he left the ICU, he believed he could get better and has certainly put in the work to do so.

Carpenter looks forward to walking to-and-from his mailbox without his oxygen level dropping, and simply spending more time outside, including mowing his seven-and-a-half-acre yard. Although those things may not seem extraordinary to some, they mean the world to him after all the hard work he has put in to just getting his health back.

To learn more about the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation, go to