Support groups, training helping those who are experiencing COVID-19 long-haul symptoms

Posted at 5:57 AM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 07:16:07-04

(WXYZ) — Most people who get COVID-19 recover in about three weeks, but many people still deal with long-term side effects. In some cases, people who contracted the virus have symptoms for months.

Nearly 12 million Americans have experienced COVID-19 long-haul symptoms. Most people feel better in about three months, and many recover in about six months, but some still experience symptoms after a year.

There are nearly 200 symptoms of long-haul COVID-19, including brain fog, fatigue, loss of taste and smell, and feeling out of breath. But how you deal with is a story within itself.

Tonyia Aschenbrenner is an elementary school teacher and an active mother of four. She was diagnosed with COVID-19 nearly 10 months ago, and is still dealing with symptoms.

She continues to work and live a normal life, despite all the setbacks she's had.

But, she's had to overcome and adapt to a new way of life. For now, she is still dealing with loss of taste and smell and other effects like nausea.

"I eat foods with a lot of texture. It has to be very crunchy in order for me to eat it," Aschenbrenner said. "Foods that crumble like cookies or certain kinds of potato chips make me sick to my stomach It makes me feel like I am eating sand, or I have mud in my mouth."

She knows she's not alone in this battle. Diana Berrent is a long-hauler and is the founder of Survivor Corp. She's helping connect, educate and giving vital information to those who are still suffering symptoms.

"We really filled a role to inform the public where the government is offering some very confused and garbled messaging we are here to break it down and make it very clear," Berrent said.

Her advocacy is to help stem the tide of the pandemic and assist in a national recovery effort. Her Facebook group has over 170,000 followers with people sharing their own stories.

Dr. Omar Danoun is a specialist in neurology at Henry Ford Health System. He said there's no surgery that can bring back Aschenbrenner's smell or taste, but there is a special type of training.

"When patients have COVID-19, their smell nerves, their olfactory neurons are kind of going to sleep and they're not sensing the smell correctly," Danoun said. "So what we do is we try to train them, wake them up and give them the physical therapy they need. and we do that through olfactory training."

Olfactory training is when someone is actively sniffing the same four scents every day, spending around 20 seconds on each scent and really concentrating on what you're doing. Trying to get that spark back can sometimes take months, or even years.

But, as time has gone on, more people are coming forward with their stories, making many people lose the feeling that they're alone.

"It Just gives us hope knowing that other people are also going through this and that we will get better," Aschenbrenner said.

If you're experiencing a form of COVID-19 long-haulers, there are resources that are available out there to help you.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.