LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — University of Texas medical experts are exploring the chronic lingering symptoms of COVID-19 as they are seeing more and more patients who identify as “long-haulers.”
Beth Meier of Leander identifies as a long-hauler and is now enrolled in a three-year study with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that explores post-COVID-19 convalescence.
It’s been 204 days since Meier tested positive for COVID-19. A photo of her just a week before she got sick shows her as a healthy 43-year-old and mom of four, with no underlying conditions.
But since COVID-19 hit—the lingering symptoms of numbness, brain fog, loss of smell and difficulty breathing just won’t go away.
“My official diagnosis is post-viral debility which made me cry, because no one wants to think of themselves as debilitated,” Meier explained.
She’s been to an immunologist, cardiologist, pulmonologist and her primary care physician. The cardiologist had to monitor her for random bouts of an elevated heart rate.
“It can go up to 174-180, just by doing something like walking from the living room to the kitchen,” Meier said.
Several of her labs and allergy tests all came back clear. But she currently has to use an inhaler, and she had to have a biopsy for a painful rash that appeared on her skin.
“I don’t think my nervous system knows how to shut off my immune response to things. I think I’m constantly in fight or flight and my body is constantly trying to fight off something I haven’t had since June or before,” Meier said.
She also began to notice the neurological effects.
“I was slicing a sweet potato this morning, and it hurt my hand so bad just to grip that, but also my heart rate was up, and I was winded just chopping this sweet potato,” Meier said.
Researchers at Dell Medical School say those post-COVID-19 symptoms align with a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of 274 patients.
This chart below shows a breakdown of the patients’ symptoms. Fatigue tops the list, followed by cough, headache and body aches. Three weeks after testing positive for the virus, 35% of the patients did not get back to their normal health.
Doctors say although sicker patients will likely have symptoms for a longer period of time, there are no clear predictors on who will struggle to recover from COVID-19 like Meier currently is.
“There’s some data that shows people that have an acute cough, diarrhea, hoarseness and Dysthymia early on in the first week are more prone for that,” said Rama Thyagarajan, M.D.
Currently, the NIH is conducting several studies on the long-term impact of COVID-19 to better understand how to treat patients.
Meier along with other Central Texans have started a private Facebook group called “ATX COVID Long Haulers” to help support each other.