Council Bluffs woman finds hope for COVID-19 long-haulers
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (WOWT) - Ka’trina Smith still has COVID-19 symptoms: Dizziness. Fever. Loss of taste. Pounding heartbeat. Fatigue.
“I never got over any of my symptoms,” she said.
Smith was diagnosed with COVID-19 before vaccines were available, in December 2020. Fourteen months later, she’s finally getting answers to questions that doctor after doctor couldn’t answer.
“Nobody could tell me anything was wrong,” the 39-year-old medical assistant said. “They’d say, ‘Well, it could be something from COVID.’ ”
It turns out, she’s not alone. It’s been estimated as much as ten percent of symptomatic COVID-19 patients experience what Ka’trina has endured. Doctors haven’t even standardized a name for it; whether it’s called “long COVID,” “post-COVID” or “chronic COVID,” it so far has proved challenging for the medical community.
“It’s the nature of what we do in medicine is to understand why,” said Dr. David Kaminsky, who is leading a COVID long-hauler study at the University of Vermont. “So when people are recovering from COVID, you expect them to fully recover, and they’re not.”
Similar research is underway throughout the country, and at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Ka’trina finally started finding some answers.
”There’s no specific diagnostic criteria yet, no test that we can use to determine who really does have long-term COVID,” Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn of the Mayo Clinic said. “So more and more patients are presenting for care now and are showing a wide variety of symptoms.”
The nonprofit Mayo Clinic’s COVID Activity Rehabilitation Program is part of a broad range of offerings she’s found there to help her recovery. She and her husband went to the clinic in January and will return in April.
She wanted people to know that if they aren’t feeling themselves after COVID-19, they shouldn’t stop seeking help.
”I can connect with all of these people,” she said of the online group. “I’ve talked to some of them and they have no idea what’s going on and they are looking for answers. I was just like, talk to your doctor. You have to advocate for yourself.”
Doctors also agree that receiving a vaccine is important for post-COVID sufferers. In Ka’trina’s case, she did receive the vaccine once she was eligible, and hopes it helps against breakthroughs and her continuing battle.
“We do think some of the long-term effects of COVID may be due to immune dysregulation,” said Dr. Meredith Clement, infectious disease specialist from LSU’s school of medicine. “So how the vaccine impacts the immune system may be a solution to this but we just don’t quite know at this point.”
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