Long COVID still a major problem for some patients 2 years after pandemic began

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 07:36:15-05

(WXYZ) — Two years ago, on March 10, 2020, Michigan recorded the first two cases of the coronavirus. We have been through so much since then – almost 2.4 million cases and sadly, more than 32,000 people have died from COVID-19.

Recently, COVID-19 cases are falling quickly after a fourth surge earlier this year and late 2020, and the hope is we are moving beyond the pandemic.

But, as metro Detroiters get back to normal life, there is a group of people at risk of being left behind: Those who are suffering the long-term effects of the virus.

Before contracting COVID-19, Sylvan Lake resident Jeff Whitmer was active spending time camping, grilling and traveling with his wife and two kids. In November 2020, the coronavirus changed his life.

Jeff is suffering from long-COVID, and almost a year and a half later, he still endures crushing fatigue, headaches, a racing heart, body aches and brain fog.

"I might have a severe headache for a week and then it'll go away, but then another week, I can barely remember what my wife told me this morning," he said.

But the fatigue never seems to go away, and that limits his ability to go out, play with the kids and live the life he had before COVID-19.

"It turns your life upside down. And thankfully, we have a very loving life and kids that understand," he said.

Dr. Teena Chopra from Wayne State University said long-COVID is one of the biggest mysteries of the pandemic.

The cause is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of inflammation and the immune system.

"It is extremely impairing, frustrating and affects the quality of life of patients," she said.

More than 80% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 still suffer from some form of long-hauler symptoms.

Women are twice as likely as men to suffer, and those who are obese, have asthma, COPD or are over the age of 65 are at a greater risk.

"There is a ton of research that is going on at Wayne State University. Our researchers are working night and day, and they are learning more and more," Chopra said.

One challenge – each long-COVID patient seems to have their own set of symptoms, but they tend to fall into three groups: Fatigue, cardio-respiratory, and neuropsychiatric symptoms.

"It is going to be a long process and it is going to require a lot of patience both on the part of the patient and the provider," Chopra said.

Just ask Jeff. It took almost a year to get his smell back, and he still has to rest at times throughout the day. He said he's thankful his family and employers know the challenges are real.

"You just got to be able to be open to the fact that someone may seem fine, but you don't know what they're bad with and what they're dealing with," he said.

Chopra says if you seem to be suffering from long-COVID-like symptoms but never got a test or tested negative, you should see your doctor.

Remember, some people will suffer remained asymptomatic and never show symptoms, even though they were infected.

Others may have tested too soon and their test was negative even though they did have the virus.