Doctors say they’re bracing for a “tsunami” of “COVID long haulers”
As the coronavirus pandemic continues across the U.S., experts are noticing another wave of the pandemic with what they’re calling “COVID long-haulers,” or people suffering debilitating symptoms months after having the coronavirus.
Doctors say they are seeing many people who have recovered from COVID but are finding themselves still not well.
Caitlin Barber, a 27-year-old newlywed, is one of these “COVID long haulers,” who led a healthy lifestyle with her husband and spent time training as a runner. She was also a dietician at a nursing home.
“We were living the newlywed dream, you know and loving life,” Barber told “Good Morning America.”
In March, things changed instantly when she was diagnosed with COVID-19. Barber recovered from the disease, but getting rid of the virus wouldn’t be the end of it.
Seven months after getting COVID, Barber said that the side effects of the disease have lingered, affecting her ability to walk on her own and even do simple tasks like showering.
“We kind of call it the Corona Coaster because one day could be okay, and the next day I’m on the floor, having convulsions, thinking I’m having a heart attack,” said Barber.
Michaelene Carlton, a mom of two from Delaware, has also been struggling since recovering from COVID-19. Some of the symptoms she’s been experiencing are extreme headaches.
“A bad day is some days me not being able to get out of bed,” Carlton told “GMA.” “The headaches are so extreme that I’m taking migraine medicine and sleeping for 14 to 16 hours a day.”
Because of how bad their symptoms were getting, both women sought help online among a community of people experiencing the same thing after recovering from COVID-19. It was in the Facebook support group SurvivorCorps that each learned about Mount Sinai’s post-COVID clinic — the largest clinic in the country dedicated to treating long haulers.
“What we’re seeing at the center is a very wide distribution of both age, sex, ethnicity, preexisting conditions versus healthy patients,” said Dr. Zijian Chen, director of Mount Sinai’s post COVID clinic. “You’re not protected if you’re young and healthy, unfortunately.”
At Mount Sinai, they’re experiencing an influx of patients who are turning to them for help, and the waitlist is growing.
“I have patients not only across the country, but across the world that are seeking advice because they just haven’t been able to find the support in terms of the healthcare system,” said Mount Sinai’s Dr. Dayna McCarthy.
Chen also warned that the growing number of people experiencing COVID long hauler symptoms may have major consequences down the line.
“This other group of patients with symptoms are unrelenting that need to see many doctors in order to discuss and treat all of their symptoms,” she said. “I mean, it’s going to put a real big stain on the health system.”
Now, people like Barber are hoping their story puts a spotlight on the effects of COVID and what people can experience after contracting the disease.
“I share my story for everyone else. I want people to see this story and protect themselves,” she said. “I hope we figure out answers.”