ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The pandemic drags on and so do lasting side effects for people who supposedly recovered from COVID. Maya McNulty is one such “long-hauler” who says even 10 months later, she’s still not free from coronavirus.
“Back in March after I tested positive, Department of Health had called and said to rest for 14 days, but three days into that I was dying of respiratory failure and March 21, I was put into a medically induced coma,” McNulty explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
She says she stayed in that coma for 10 days, then on a ventilator for six weeks. Now even long after the virus left her and she produced antibodies, she still suffers through constant pain from the ventilator scars, caught bronchitis twice due to her weakened lungs, and also shows signs of PTSD and irregular heart palpitations. McNulty also says a constant feeling of brain fog makes it extremely difficult to concentrate, and so she’s also out of work.
“As a long-hauler, it’s really just you’ve got to keep being really tough and just pulling yourself through,” McNulty says while trying not to cough.
Albany Medical Center doctors set up the Post-COVID Care Clinic to try and find people who show lasting damage from the virus.
“These patients were extremely distraught. They needed help, they needed support and care, and so we felt that this was the need of the hour, so to speak. This new illness and what consequences are playing out for many people,” says Dr. Anupama Tiwari, a pulmonologist and also the AMC Post-COVID Care Clinic director.
McNulty is one of the clinic’s patients and so is Bri Burlett who suffered some brain damage after she contracted COVID back in April.
“I recovered at home, but I started getting my neurological symptoms back in July and they seem to be getting progressively worse,” Burlett explains.
“It definitely affects my day-to-day life. I’m still out of work, I have really bad neuropathy pain in my feet and hands and then of course the tremors. It’s definitely very scary because you don’t know if this is a temporary thing, if it’s going to be something that, you know, is going to be lifelong,” she goes on to say.
Doctor Tiwari says she and her team cover everything from heart and lung specialists, to psychological experts. Their goal is to treat the trauma, but also to study it.
“It could be someone who is young or old or with medical issues or not, it can still go on to present these persistent symptoms. At this time, there are very few commonalities other than they are still sick,” Dr. Tiwari explains.
“We need to have research on these patients in terms of collecting data on this population and studying them, and then see how this group of people evolve and that will help us formulate better treatment plans for them.”
She says the hospital is working to get the word out and find those post-COVID patients who recovered at home. McNulty and Burlett say they’re grateful to get the care they need and to be taken seriously.
“There’s times where people have said to me with my voice box or with the way I feel, that it’s in my head. … We are a new breed of survivors and we need medical attention,” says McNulty, who also started a social media group, COVID Wellness, for survivors to share information and support.
“Knowing that you’re not alone in this, that there’s others experiencing it also. Not that you want others to be going through this, but just to know that you’re not alone in it,” says Burlett.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates around one-third of COVID-19 patients show lasting signs of illness. Symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Racing heart
- Chest pain
- Inability to concentrate
- General feeling of malaise
If you or someone you know is experiencing these or other symptoms after recovering from COVID-19, visit the AMC Post-COVID Care Clinic at 16 New Scotland Avenue, Second Floor or call 518-262-9340 for more information or to set up an appointment. Telemedicine visits are also available.