Recovered COVID-19 patient returns to thank Westmead Hospital

Westmead Hospital respiratory lab scientists Callum Bennett, Dr Cassandra Thompson, Cavelyn Louise Jones, lead scientist Dr Catherine Farrow and Robert Robles.

Recovered COVID-19 patients are receiving expert follow-up care to check on their lung health at the Westmead Hospital Respiratory Function Laboratory.

Respiratory staff specialist Professor Kristina Kairaitis explained that as the disease attacks the lungs, all admitted patients will receive at least two follow-up appointments for a lung function test at Sydney’s largest respiratory lab.

“This is a safe and clinically-proven test used in the management of other respiratory conditions that will allow physicians to monitor any ongoing problems with recovered patients,” A/Prof Kairaitis said.

“For example, if the virus has caused scarring in the lungs, the test can assess how this has affected the patient and measure how much their lung function has been reduced.”

Gabriela Domicelj thanks Westmead Hospital emergency staff specialist Dr Philip Choi and nurse Hayden Webster.

The lab performs a variety of specialised tests to assess lung function and is equipped to test a large variety of patients including those with cystic fibrosis, emphysema, asthma and other lung diseases.

The test for COVID-19 patients takes about one hour and not only assesses how well how well air moves in and out of the lungs, but also how well the lungs are able to transfer oxygen to the blood. Patients may then be referred for further follow-up tests and treatment if necessary.

Among their patients is Gabriela Domicelj, who returned to Westmead Hospital yesterday for a test and to thank staff after a marathon 50-day battle with COVID-19.

Gabriela and her husband contracted the disease in March during an overseas business trip and ended up needing to spend seven weeks in home isolation, including three trips to hospital for various complications.

Westmead Hospital respiratory scientist Callum Bennett prepares the plethysmograph, which is used to measure the volume of air in the lungs.

“There was a day or two where it was uncertain. We’re both still not 100 per cent. We’re much better but still not right,” she told 7 News.

“I just wanted to show my appreciation to the doctors and nurses who got me through it and made me feel at ease despite my fears.”

Gabriela gave flowers and heartfelt thanks yesterday to staff at Westmead Hospital’s emergency department COVID-19 ‘hot zone’.

A/Prof Kairaitis said Australia had ‘dodged a bullet’ with COVID-19 so far but people still need to be cautious and get tested at the first sign of symptoms, especially as the country enters the winter flu season.

“We have prepared for a second wave, we have anticipated a second wave. We’d really love not to see one,” she said.

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, sore throat, dry cough, fatigue (unexplained tiredness) and shortness of breath.

If you have any symptoms, please stay home and call your GP or the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, and find your nearest testing clinic here.