One Day at a Time

Cardiopulmonary rehab empowers COVID-19 survivor

Sherrie Kopinski and one of her caregivers Jennifer Moss, RNSmiling and jokingly teasing her cardiopulmonary therapists, it’s easy to see that Sherrie Kopinski has a positive attitude. It’s helped her many times during her 57 years on this earth, and it recently helped her through a life-threatening experience with COVID-19.

“I just kept thinking, ‘I’m okay. I’ll be okay,’” she says now, masked up and with an oxygen tank at her side.

Kopinski is one of a growing number of COVID-19 survivors dealing with long-term effects of a virus that doctors and scientists are still trying to understand. Jennifer Moss is one of the registered nurses at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Outpatient Program helping Kopinski work through those effects.

“When you have been healthy beforehand it completely alters your life,” Moss says. “Our goal is to help give you your life back.”

Staffed by nurses, exercise physiologists and respiratory therapists, the rehab facility works in cooperation with a registered dietitian and a pharmacist. Together, this team builds a customized plan of treatment and education for the long-term benefit of the patient.

It starts with an evaluation and some light exercise monitored by medical professionals. “We meet the patients exactly where they are with their exercise tolerance and slowly progress from there,” Moss says.

Sherrie Kopinski working on her exercises at Fort Sanders Regional's Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Outpatient ProgramKopinski, who lives in Mascot, travels to Knoxville twice a week for her medically supervised cardiopulmonary rehab therapy at Fort Sanders Regional. Her fight against COVID-19 continues, even though the virus has left her body.

“The staff is wonderful,” she says. “They are there to help you with whatever you need, to encourage you.”

The structured exercises have helped her go from two liters of oxygen to one liter, and she continues to improve. The numbers don’t tell the whole story, though. Needing less oxygen has translated into a better quality of life at home.

“When I first came home from the hospital I couldn’t even walk up my steps without having to stop,” Kopinski says. “I couldn’t walk from our family room into the kitchen without having to sit down.”

So day by day, Kopinski holds on to her faith and her positive attitude and works toward a better quality of life. She joins the thousands of people who are long-term, recovering COVID-19 survivors, refusing to let the virus win no matter how long the fight may last.

For information about cardiopulmonary rehab for COVID-19 survivors, visit or call Fort Sanders Regional Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Outpatient Program at (865) 331-1250.

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