By Rachel Swick Mavity
Prior to the pandemic, Seaford native Carla Tingle was at the top of her career as a disabilities support counselor.
After graduating from Seaford High School in 1988, Carla worked for the DuPont company for a few years before becoming the coordinator of student enrichment for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Program and Academic Counselor, working primarily with students with varying disabilities, at Delaware Technical Community College.
She was also working for the University of Delaware at that time as the accommodations specialist with satellite campuses in Georgetown, Dover, and Lewes. Carla eventually moved to Baltimore to work for Morgan State University. After a few years, she began working at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES).
When the pandemic hit, Carla, like many across the nation, began working from home. Doing part-time work for the Department of Labor, again with DVR, Carla still ended up getting COVID-19.
“It affected me much more than my other family members who also contracted COVID-19 and I ended up in the ICU on a respirator for 15 days,” Carla says. “For me, COVID changed everything. I am now on disability. I had to re-learn how to swallow; how to walk again; how to recognize urges to use the bathroom; and how to simply learn to focus and not to become overwhelmed at menial tasks.”
Carla has what healthcare experts are calling Long-COVID, meaning she has ongoing health issues even after recovering from the coronavirus. After leaving the ICU and the hospital, Carla continued to experience inflammation and memory issues.
“I had speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and other therapies involving massage, dry needling, acupuncture, a chiropractor, and even continued behavioral health therapy, but I had so many hurdles after surviving COVID-19 that I was losing confidence and even experience survivor’s guilt and medical adjustment disorder,” Carla said.
One mental health counselor called it Post-COVID Traumatic Stress Disorder, she said.
Despite the rehabilitation and therapies for COVID, in January 2021, less than nine months after her release from the hospital for COVID, Carla had a stroke.
The stroke exasperated her mobility and her stability, but it also brought on severe migraines, sometimes bad enough that, coupled with anxiety, would send her to the emergency department.
Fortunately, Carla had moved back from Baltimore to Seaford where her two sons could check on her regularly. She has a healthcare aide to attend to her during the day, taking her to doctor’s appointments and helping her at home.
It was being back home in Seaford, with the coordination of care from her sons, that she found Aquacare Physical Therapy.
“I first started coming after my stroke because of the balance issues and the fibromyalgia pain that I was having,” she said. “It was great because they have the aquatic therapy, and the pool is great for me.”
Carla found she loved going into the warm-water pool at the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford to do her exercises.
“I felt like I could really move and was getting somewhere with strength building, endurance, and steadiness,” she said.
After her sessions for stroke rehabilitation were over, Carla went back to her doctors for ongoing nerve pain that was causing numbness. They tried epidural lumbar injections, which worked at first, but at one point, the injection hit another nerve, causing more widespread pain and inflammation that set her recovery back by a few months. After prednisone and narcotic pain medication failed to work, her PCP through Tidalhealth decided that physical motion was the answer.
“I knew when my doctor asked about doing physical therapy that I would go back to Aquacare,” she said.
Carla returned for her second round of aquatic therapy in 2023.
This time she worked with Kayla Bell, PTA, in the pool.
“I remembered again how great I felt in the water,” Carla said. “Kayla taught me all these new exercises and I felt myself getting stronger. The pain that I was having for months from the hit nerve resolved and went completely away.”
Carla saw others using the pool and decided she wanted to challenge herself to swim every day, eventually with the goal of swimming laps. She joined the Boys & Girls Club community pool and has spent hours in the water each day regaining her strength, balance, and reducing her overall pain.
“Aquacare and the pool therapy resolved my nerve pain when nothing else could,” Carla said. “It has given me parts of my life back.”
In addition to being able to move more, Carla also regained her social life and confidence.
“After COVID and the stroke, I was alone at home a lot. I didn’t ever want to go anywhere,” she said. “Now that I go to the pool every day, I talk to people, and I have made new friends. I feel more alive and more like the person I used to be. It has given me so much more than just movement…it has made me a human again.”
During her sessions with Aquacare, Carla also learned more about the family that she never knew about. “It turns out the man I thought was my dad wasn’t and there had been another person who was my father,” she said. “He had passed away years ago, but I got to meet other family members from his side, and it has opened up this whole new world. They have opened their arms to my sons and to me.”
“I know I wouldn’t have been confident enough to meet them or to even explore this part of my past without Aquacare helping me with my health goals and getting me to socialize again,” she added. “Just the act of spending hours meeting family members and being able to hold proper conversations with them without becoming overwhelmed or completely exhausted because of low endurance.”
PTA Kayla Bell agreed. “When people come to physical therapy, it is about exercise, but it often is also about socialization. When people don’t feel well, they lose confidence, and this can make them feel isolated. Coming to therapy really helped Carla open up,” she said.
Kayla has seen Carla take big leaps in her health.
“When we first started, Carla had a lot of brain fog from COVID, but as we went on, I could see she was clearer. The change was evident. Now she is really doing great, and her pain [that brought her here] is gone,” Kayla said. “She went from holding onto the wall the entire session to being able to hold herself up in the water. I am so proud of all she has accomplished.”
To learn more about Aquacare – Seaford, to schedule an appointment or a free consultation, call 302-536-1774 or go online to www.aquacarephysicaltherapy.com.