NY – Catherine Busa was infected early with Covid-19 and survived, although she never fully recovered.
Busa, a 54-year-old New York school secretary, had no health problems when she contracted the virus in March and recovered at her home in Queens.
But some symptoms never went away: Like a constant fatigue that he had never felt in years of waking up at five in the morning, pains especially in his hands and wrists, a change in taste and smell that made him not eat meals. appetizing and growing depression.
After enduring all this for eight months, she went to the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, a clinic dedicated specifically to the care of patients who had Covid-19.
“I was sitting in a hole and I couldn’t see the bright side of things,” Busa said. Visits to the doctor did not help her. But things were different at the clinic.
“They knew what I was feeling,” he explained. “That helped me cope with all of this.”
The clinic is one of dozens of such facilities that popped up across the country to deal with an unusual aspect of Covid-19: Symptoms that can continue to overwhelm people for weeks or months when the infection was brought under control.
Program approaches vary, but all share the same goal, which is to understand, treat, and give credibility to patients who are unable to get rid of symptoms.
“We know it’s real,” said Dr. Alan Roth, who oversees the Jamaica Hospital clinic. He himself has had to deal with aches, fatigue, and occasional “confusion” or forgetfulness since he suffered a relatively mild contagion from Covid-19 in March.
As with almost all aspects of the pandemic, the issue of patients who continue to feel symptoms for a long time is still being studied. It is not clear what percentage of patients suffer from this problem or why some patients continue to experience symptoms and others do not.
Available data indicate that probably 30% of patients continue to experience symptoms two to three weeks after testing positive. In 10% of cases, symptoms continue three to six months later, according to Dr. Wesley Self, an emergency room physician at Vanderbilt University and co-author of a July report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Doctors have long known that patients who spend time in intensive care units have a long recovery. But many patients with symptoms that don’t go away were never serious.
At the post-Covid-19 clinic at the University of Texas at Clear Lake, the patients’ ages range from 23 to 90. Half of them were never hospitalized, according to the institution’s director, Dr. Justin Seashore.
“They were told they should feel better soon, but that did not happen,” he said. On the contrary, they feel fatigue, it is difficult to breathe, they feel anxiety and depression, and they have trouble concentrating, among other problems they did not have before.
Some were told that they must receive oxygen for the rest of their lives. On the positive side, many were able to be helped through treatments including respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, visits to psychologists and other resources, Seashore said.
St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, which has several clinics in Los Angeles, does not focus exclusively on patients who continue to feel symptoms but schedules monthly check-ups and consultations with everyone who has tested positive at one of its facilities. It has treated nearly 1,000 patients.
Since contracting the virus in June, Luciana Flores has experienced back pain, stomach problems and breathing difficulties. Flores, who has three children, lost his job in a laundry in the middle of the pandemic and says he does not have the strength to go out to look for work.
She claims that St. John’s helped her diagnose and treat a bacterial infection in her digestive system.
“It is important that other patients receive the same care,” said Flores, who is 38 years old. “I don’t feel the same as before. I think nothing is going to be the same again, but there is no other way out, you have to look forward.”
There is no known cure for the long-term problems associated with Covid.
Clinics only seek to alleviate symptoms, offering the patient a place to seek help if their doctor cannot relieve them.
“We wanted to create a site where the patient can receive answers or be heard,” even if there are no answers, said Dr. Denyse Lutchmansingh of the Yale Post-Covid Recovery Program.
At Jamaica Hospital, patients see psychologists, pulmonologists, and receive physical exams that delve deeper into their lifestyles, personal circumstances, and causes of their anxiety. So far he has treated hundreds of people, Roth said.
The idea is that patients can “generate their own healing capacity,” said Dr. Wayne Jones, former director of the Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. Now he works with the Samueli Foundation, a Californian non-profit organization that collaborates with hospitals to try to combine alternative ideas with conventional medicine.
Patients with long-term symptoms are developed exercise and diet plans and are asked to participate in individual psychological therapy. Dietary supplements, breathing exercises, and meditation are often recommended.
Busa underwent a test that revealed that he suffered from apnea, a disorder that disrupts sleep because a person stops breathing and causes people to feel fatigued during the day.
He was prescribed a device to deal with it, wrist bands and injections to relieve pain. Her treatment also includes sessions with a psychiatrist, walks, exercises on a stationary bike, and journaling about the things that make her feel grateful.
He says he is making progress, especially when it comes to his mood, and attributes it to the clinic.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “And there are people and doctors who understand you.”