AUSTIN (KXAN) — Brandon Johnson got COVID-19 in June of last year. He started to feel better by August, nearly normal in fact, but in October 2020 a whole new set of symptoms set in.
“From my waist down, it felt like I was being stabbed with hot needles, millions of them all over my legs. My bones would ache to the point where it felt like they were almost dissolving. It felt like the pain was just resonating through my bones,” Johnson said.
The pain was real, but the reason why it was happening was nearly impossible to nail down.
“I’d get sent to a specialist; I’d go see a cardiologist, I saw a gastroenterologist, I saw a neurologist and going to see them, they run all the tests, but there’s not a specific test for the long haul stuff, they can only test for things that are known,” he said. “I would get ‘everything looks fine, we’re not seeing anything here.’ Thankfully there was no damage to your heart or anything like that, but at the same time when a neurologist tells you they’re not finding any reason to be having pain in your legs, or your nerves to be freaking out, and you have pins and needles or these feelings, at that point it gets to be kind of saddening.”
Clarity as to what was going on was hard to come by, and it’s an area of study that’s just getting started. We reached out to the Texas Department of State Health Services, asking them how many “long hauler” COVID-19 cases they’re tracking. They told us, “DSHS doesn’t have data on long haul Covid cases in Texas. A longitudinal academic study would be required to track cases over time.”
We did find out that UT Health Austin has a Post-COVID-19 Program intended to, “create an educational community in which healthcare professionals can come together to learn more about post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) infection…”
Johnson is taking part in the program, which is part of the reason he ended up at Texas Physical Therapy Specialists. They’re able to treat his symptoms, like numbness and tingling in the legs, and fatigue because they’ve seen it before.
“Each patient that arrives at our clinic, we do an exam on. We want to see where their deficits are, where there impairments are,” said Scott Cartwright, a physical therapist at Texas Physical Therapy Specialists (TexPTS). “For Brandon it was numbness and tingling — we know how to treat numbness and tingling. We are movement specialists, physical therapists, and we know that if we do dynamic stretching and nerve gliding that should help that condition.”
People who have had COVID-19 and are still dealing with fatigue, weakness, joint pain, shortness of breath, brain fog or other post-COVID complaints can get a free post-COVID screening at TexPTS.
“We’ve come up with a program to help people suffering from Long-COVID. Ourselves and a couple other medical disciplines have come up with a treatment program where we evaluate the patient, see where they’re at, find out what their goals are,” Cartwright said. “Some people’s goals are to walk to the mailbox, others, ‘let’s go do a 10k.'”
Johnson’s goal is being able to get through a full day of work. He’s not there yet, but as he nears a year of Long-COVID symptoms, there’s hope of finally getting better.
“This is something that’s gaining awareness. Long-COVID is gaining awareness throughout lots of different places, there’s hope for it, there’s actually a light at the end of the tunnel,” Johnson said. “I hope that one day that I or that anybody that’s had to deal with this has to continue to suffer from.”