For some people, recovering from an initial COVID-19 infection is just the beginning of their health crisis. A year after the first cases of the virus were detected in Wuhan, China, it has become clear that many struggle with Post-COVID Syndrome as a result of an infection for months on end. Some researchers—including Dr. Natalie Lambert—have made it their mission to study the disease and the long haulers who suffer from it, including the many symptoms associated with it, how long they tend to last, and even the severity of their initial infection. Here are some patient testimonials about a few key long hauler symptoms. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
From her initial infection to the long-term symptoms she experienced for months on end as a long hauler, nurse Shauna Rankin experienced many manifestations of the virus. One of the most notable was a group of several symptoms long hauler experts refer to as “changing symptoms.” In Rankin’s case, she would experience six weeks of heart palpitations. Then, her blood oxygen levels would tank, and her heart would race. Next up would be brain fog, “that made everything disjointed, like when she had a concussion in high school,” she told East Idaho News. According to Dr. Natalie Lambert’s Long Hauler Survey, out of the many symptoms experienced, this was one of the most common and long-lasting.
A month after being diagnosed with COVID, Travis Smith started experiencing tachycardia, a racing, pounding heartbeat. “My heart was going crazy. The only way I’ve been able to describe that night was, it felt like my heart was trying to tear through my rib cage,” he revealed to East Idaho News, adding that he experienced it “multiple times a day and throughout the week.” It got so bad, he was forced to visit a cardiologist.
Natasha Wingerter, 36, experienced a slew of long hauler symptoms. One of the most debilitating? Brain fog. “I would go and teach for four hours on Fridays, and then the whole weekend I would be stuck in bed because it just killed me, physically and mentally and everything,” she told East Idaho News. “It would take me like three hours to write an email … just because, like, it wouldn’t make sense in my head.” It was so bad, she was unable to work on her Ph.D. for six months. “You want to say the word ball, and you’re searching for the actual word ‘ball.’ You can think of it in your head, the word you’re trying to say. You can see it, but you can’t make the connection of what the word is. You’ll say, like, ‘Earth.’ … I keep on messing up saying, like, spoon instead of cup, still today,” she described it. “It was like dealing with someone who was really hammered. You would use a similar but very different word,” her partner added. “And I still do that,” Wingerter said. “It’s like I have a ping-pong ball in my head.”
Shortness of breath is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19. However, months after their initial diagnosis, some people are still struggling to breathe. Dan George, 43, described his experience as a long hauler with Big Sky. “My symptoms steadily got worse. The main symptoms were fatigue and low blood oxygen level,” George, who was first diagnosed with COVID in October when he was admitted to the hospital with a 105 degreee temperature, explained. He was released after 10 days, then spent more than seven weeks on oxygen while recovering at home. “I’ve always been pretty active: an athlete and coach, do a lot of hunting out West. To have to be toting around an oxygen line, that was a little limiting,” George said. Several months later, he still struggles to breathe. “When I breathe deeply, I still have a heaviness in my upper chest and I still get fatigued with strenuous activity. It’s getting better every day but it is going to take time.”
Kim Oakes contracted COVID-19 in the spring and spent several weeks in the hospital sedated and intubated. However, her health struggle wasn’t over when she returned home. “My teeth went bad, and I had to have 17 teeth pulled all at once,” she told Big Sky. “I had to get dentures because my teeth were gone. My hair started falling out rapidly. I don’t really have a whole lot left.”
Extreme exhaustion is one of the most common symptoms reported by long haulers. 37-year-old Kelly Hickman explained to The Seattle Times that she suffered a mild initial infection, followed by a cycle of “crushing fatigue” and brain fog so impenetrable leaving her unable to read a book or follow the plot of a movie. She was so exhausted she could barely get out of bed and was forced to quit her job for several months—and she still isn’t back to normal. “Is this chronic? Is this my life now?” she asked. “I don’t know and the doctors don’t know.”
Months after battling an infection, James Valdez still has an occasional cough and reveals that respiratory system is affected by extreme temperature changes, such as getting in and out of his truck in frigid climes. For example, his system will be “so sensitive and dry and burning, and a minute later, I’ll be stuffy,” Valdez told Overdrive. “It’s like I have allergy season every day.”
David Wheat is just one of many people who lost his sense of smell or taste when he was infected with COVID. And, like many long haulers, they didn’t fully return. He revealed to Overdrive that his sense of taste is about 75% back, but he’s lost all sense of smell. “I literally had my face a foot in front of these brakes and I couldn’t smell nothing,” he said, revealing that it was smoking.
If you experience any of the symptoms you’ve just read about, contact a medical professional immediately. To avoid catching COVID and becoming a long hauler yourself, follow Dr. Anthony Fauci‘s fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.