In it for the long haul part 1: 2 COVID-19 survivors talk long-lasting side effects

In it for the long haul part 1: 2 COVID-19 survivors talk long-lasting side effects
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 6:37 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - For months, discussions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine have focused on not ending up in the hospital and potentially dying. But now, those who’ve experienced COVID say there’s another reason to get vaccinated.

It’s called Post-Acute COVID Syndrome, better known as “Long Haul COVID”. Doctors describe this as COVID symptoms that last for 30 days or more after having the active virus.

The National Institutes of Health state says currently, around 10 to 30 percent of people who’ve had COVID-19 go on to experience lingering symptoms. In fact, a July 2020 study done by a national COVID Long Haul support group, Survivor Corps, and the Indiana University School of Medicine cites 98 different long haul symptoms people have experienced.

The most common ones are extreme fatigue, memory and heart issues. These symptoms impact about three million Americans and counting, and as of now, doctors don’t know if their symptoms will go away or become permanent.

In March of 2021, WCTV anchor/reporter Jacob Murphey contracted the virus.

“It’s scary. Every possible outcome goes through your mind in an instant,” Murphey said.

During his time in quarantine, Murphey said he kept a diary of his symptoms, which were mild.

“While I had congestion, I never had shortness of breath,” Murphey described.

After two weeks, he said he was feeling better.

Then, in April 2021, Murphey’s doctor said he could get the COVID-19 vaccine. But days after, he said new symptoms began.

“That nervousness feeling of you can’t catch your breath. And it came on at once, and it’s basically been present ever since,” Murphey said.

Going on Google, Murphey typed in “Long Haul Covid symptoms”. The website for “Survivor Corps” popped up.

The site was started by Diana Berrent, a New York woman battling COVID-19 wanting to create a support system for others going through the same thing. The website and Facebook page is now provide an outlet for thousands also experiencing the after effects of COVID-19.

“It’s both comforting and terrifying to see one person can write a post saying this is how I feel and it seems very specific and unique and that post will have dozens of comments with people saying that’s exactly what happened to me,” Murphey said.

Michelle Chason of Tallahassee also found her way to the Survivor Corps Facebook page. She said she was trying to figure out why her COVID-19 symptoms hadn’t gone away after having the virus in June of 2020.

“Throughout this whole thing, I never ran a fever, never had a cough, never had any of the things the CDC said were signs of this,” Chason explained.

In June 2020, Chason got tested at Bragg Memorial’s COVID-19 testing site as a precaution before reopening her business.

However, experiencing no symptoms, Chason’s results were positive.

“I was shocked,” Chason said.

Chasno would later experience shortness of breath, a racing heartbeat and dull chest pains. Then, two months later, she said the “brain fog” and short-term memory loss set in.

“Literally, you just, you can’t function. You cannot function,” Chason said. She said at one point, the brain fog got so bad, she stopped driving.

“I am very independent and to lose that and have to ask someone to pick up my medicine or whatever, it took a while for me to adjust to that,” Chason said.

More than a year after having COVID-19 and getting the vaccine in February, Chason said she’s still dealing with symptoms. She said her short-term memory loss scares her the most.

“Normally, I’m such a focused, detailed person and I’m not that anymore,” Chason admitted.

Both Murphey and Chason said while they’re both having more good days, the negative after effects of this virus remain.

“When we talk about COVID, the death rate is obviously the one that has always received the headlines, but I think it’s worth keeping all aspects of the disease in mind, in terms of the chronic conditions that we just don’t know where they’re going to go,” Murphey said.

The two both underwent heart, lung, blood and other tests, which all came back with no issues, and they have also said they’re glad they got the vaccine.

Chason added she felt the vaccine actually helped clear her brain fog. As far as treatment, or how long the symptoms will last, doctors just don’t know right now.

Primary care doctors are treating what they can.

Murphey said, in his case, the doctor suggested waiting six months and coming back for a follow up appointment. Because this is so new, research is desperately needed.

Across the country, POST-COVID clinics are popping up, but there aren’t that many and they can be hard to get in to.

In Florida, there are currently three clinics.

Two are detailed on the Survivor Corps website, and the other post-COVID clinic in Florida is run by Mayo Clinic Jacksonville.

A list on the Survivor Corps website about POST-COVID clinics in Georgia can be found here.

Right now, many of these clinics are focusing on helping patients achieve a better quality of life, managing their symptoms so they can do things like go back to work.

As far as research, in Dec. 2020, Congress gave $1.15 billion in funding over four years to the National Institutes of Health to look into the prolonged effects of those living with Post-Acute COVID syndrome.

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