CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Long-term side effects from COVID-19 are showing up in patients across the U.S.
These patients are being called ‘COVID Long Haulers.’ The term applies to people who have recurring, worsening or new symptoms more than two weeks after being diagnosed with COVID-19. In many cases, these symptoms can last months.
Right here in the Lowcountry, one healthcare provider got an alarming wake-up call when she began noticing heart problems after being diagnosed with the virus.
Sarah Simon, a healthcare provider at Charleston Allergy & Asthma in Mt. Pleasant tested positive in late June.
Nearly two weeks in, feeling no relief, she started to notice more alarming symptoms.
“About ten days in is when I really started to climb and have all of the breathing issues, chest pressure, tightness and really started struggling,” said Simon.
Several visits to specialists and multiple tests, including an abnormal EKG, led to the diagnoses of tachycardia, increased heart rate, myocarditis, inflamed heart muscle, and dysautonomia, damage to the nervous system.
“I wasn’t able to walk more than 20 feet without getting short of breath. At first, my heart rate was going into the 140s just sitting there doing nothing. In the shower, it would be in the 180s which is very extreme for your heart,” Simon explained.
According to Dr. Patrick Looser, an interventional cardiologist at Trident Medical Center, long-term side effects like shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, and even heart abnormalities are showing up in around 50% of patients with a noticeable skew towards an unexpected age group.
“It tends to skew a little bit younger,” said Dr. Looser. “At least that’s what we’re seeing in our clinic. I’ve had 25-year-olds this week who have come in and said they’re still having shortness of breath months to weeks after having COVID.”
Dr. Looser tells News 2 that although not much is known about the reason for the long-term side effects people experience, some promising research could be coming out in the next few months.
“There is a very large cohort of patients being studied in Great Britain right now and they’re looking to publish in the spring time,” said Dr. Looser.
He’s hopeful the research will provide answers to the questions circling COVID-19 and its effects.
Sarah Simon is much better off than she was at the end of 2020 and was able to return to work for a few hours a week. Still, though, she’s being treated for her heart conditions and other side effects long after her positive COVID-19 test.
“We’re trying to address the neurology symptoms, my forgetfulness trouble finding words all of those things so that’s kind of where I’m at in the next steps for treatment,” said Simon.
July through the end of December were the heardest months for Simon, but she says having a great support system and finding a facebook group to share her experience with those dealing with similar problems has been the best way to cope.