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Some COVID Patients In It For The Long Haul

Drive-through COVID-19 Testing
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public Radio

Some COVID-19 patients recover from the virus relatively quickly, but others have to deal with lingering or even new symptoms months after battling the virus. Ellie Stevenson of Norwalk says she is what’s called a long hauler.

“I am still having gastro problems that feel like they are never going to go away and a blinding headache that has gone on for months now,” said Stevenson.

She is one of many who say they haven’t fully recovered from COVID-19 months after their initial diagnosis. Stevenson said she started to feel ill in February, and at first her doctor thought it was the flu.

“I kept saying to her this isn’t the flu, I’ve had the flu,” said Stevenson. “This is a completely different feeling.”

Stevenson’s husband had been working in Westchester County, near the epicenter of the East Coast outbreak. When the news broke about the large number of infections, Stevenson’s doctor called her and told her to assume she and her husband had the coronavirus and should self-isolate.

Her husband has fully recovered but she hasn’t.

“I work out every day,” said Stevenson. “I don’t eat junk food. I take care of myself, and it hit me a million times harder than it hit him.”

Dr. Michael Parry, an infectious disease specialist at Stamford Health, said he has seem some COVID-19 patients suffer symptoms for months.

“We only learned about COVID six months ago so we have a lot to learn, in particular about these long haulers with chronic persisting symptoms after COVID,” said Parry. 

Parry said many COVID-19 patients complain of chronic fatigue, a lingering cough or shortness of breath. Other symptoms can’t be explained.

“They get these fleeting chest pains we can’t quite pin down,” said Parry. “It’s not really like pleurisy. There is no evidence of blood clots.”

He says evidence of neuropsychiatric complications is emerging, and symptoms such as a loss of taste and smell can last for months in COVID-19 patients. The ongoing symptoms are frustrating, he said, but it just takes time. 

“Most of them have to resolve on their own,” said Parry. “Patients need support and reassurance.”

Stevenson said she luckily has found that in her doctor, whom she can call for support. Still, she says family and friends find it hard to comprehend that symptoms can persist from a virus she had months ago.

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