COVID-19 rehab program yields amazing results for Austintown man


NovaCare's Recovery and Reconditioning (R2) Program helped Bill Helsel return to normalcy

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A local man talks about his struggle with COVID-19. He has been out of the hospital for months but is still working to recover from the virus.

Bill Helsel, of Austintown, is just one of the thousands of people across our area who has dealt with COVID-19. Even those who had minor symptoms are noticing now that there are some lingering effects, such as weakness and reconditioning.

Helsel knows how much damage the coronavirus can do. He spent 32 days in a coma on a ventilator. Doctors and nurses told him that he was a miracle.

“That I lasted that long and woke up,” he said.

Helsel lost nearly 50 pounds. He walked out of the hospital in June but was discouraged about the condition of his body.

“I couldn’t raise my arm over my head from laying for two months,” Helsel said.

He sought rehab and worked with Dawn Tellman at NovaCare. The rehabilitation center has a specialized reconditioning program for those recovering from COVID-19, along with the wide range of conditions they experience.

“I would say the most common thing is generalized, deconditioned state where they are weak throughout,” Tellman said.

But they also battle with balance deficits, endurance issues and heart and lung capacity.

Tellman taught Helsel specific exercises to help his condition and monitors his vital signs to see how they’re working. Helsel had trouble using a walker when he started.

“To where I am now, where I can walk, I can swim, I go into the pool here three times a week. The machines that really helped bring me back,” Helsel said.

Helsel finished that part of rehab in January. He’s 74 and still works to keep improving. NovaCare’s Recovery and Reconditioning (R2) Program helped him return to normalcy.

“The smell comes back, the taste comes back, but you do need someone to help you safely build strength and return to your function and we’re here to do just that,” Tellman said.

“I’m a different man too. You really realize how much life means to you,” Helsel said.

Helsel spent 50 days in the ICU and because he was in bed so long, developed some hip problems. He’s 6-4, 6-5, and that’s why he’s still pushing to get stronger.

For more information about NovaCare’s R2 Program, visit the center’s website, where you can also find a location closest to you. You can also email them at

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