(CNN) — It’s been nearly a year since healthcare worker, Peter Woullard, has walked on his own.
The 53-year-old, who contracted Covid-19 last March, lost his ability to stand and walk after spending months in the hospital fighting for his life.
“I have nerve damage in certain areas of my body and also weakness,” he told CNN on Monday. “From just laying in one position for so long it took a lot of my strength from me.”
Woullard, a behavioral technician, was working on the frontlines at St. Charles Parish Hospital in Louisiana when he tested positive.
Before the pandemic, Woullard lived an active lifestyle playing with his grandchildren, going fishing and cheering on Tulane at football games. But Covid-19 has left him with lingering side effects such as fatigue and shortness of breath that limits his day-to-day activities.
Researchers have found that almost a third of people with just mild Covid-19 cases still battle symptoms as long as nine months after contracting the virus. Medical professionals are still working to learn more about this condition they are calling “long Covid” and why some patients experience lingering symptoms.
His wife, Patricia Cooper-Woullard, told CNN that they immediately quarantined at home where she tried to manage his symptoms. He had a high fever, was hallucinating and very weak, she said.
After nine days of no improvement, she said she knew something was wrong and took him into the hospital where they both worked.
“He almost fainted on me getting in the car,” she said. “When we got to the hospital, within three hours they had him intubated.”
‘I wasn’t going to give up’
Woullard was transferred to Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner, Louisiana, where he spent 38 days in the ICU, according to the hospital. At one point, Patricia said he coded and they weren’t sure if he was going to make it.
“I just prayed and cried,” she said. “I wasn’t going to give up on my husband.”
Woullard suffered many medical complications due to Covid-19. He had a stroke, a brain bleed, his kidneys were failing and he was placed on dialysis, according to his wife. He was also placed on a ventilator three different times, according to the hospital
“For the first eight weeks, it was just touch and go, touch and go,” Patricia, who works as an operating room assistant, said.
In May, surrounded by cheering hospital staff, Woullard was discharged from the ICU and transferred to an extended care facility to begin his rehabilitation. He was released to go home in September but confined to a wheelchair.
Even a year after contracting the virus, his road to recovery still continues but his spirit is not broken. Earlier this month, during physical therapy Woullard, who is 6 feet 4 inches tall, took his first steps.
“The first time I stood up, I was like ‘wow, I’m really standing,’” he said. “It’s real rewarding at this point to be able to stand up even if it’s just for a few seconds. It’s been really motivating to me.”
Patricia wasn’t able to be at the physical therapy session when he took his first steps due to Covid-19 protocols limiting visitors, but Peter had it recorded so he could show her.
“I was ecstatic,” she said about watching the video. “For a long time, we didn’t even know if he’d be able to walk or not.”
Woullard, a lifelong Raiders fan, continues his recovery with hopes of walking and one day visiting the new stadium in Las Vegas. The couple is currently raising money to help remodel his bathroom to accommodate his wheelchair.