“Am I damaged for life?” COVID long-hauler still dealing with symptoms one year after diagnosis

Local News

LEVELLAND, Texas — Paul Flores contracted COVID-19 at work in April of 2020.

And one year later, he is still feeling the effects.

“I can put an onion to my face and the only way I know the onion is there is because my eyes start watering,” Flores explained. “I can’t walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for air. I’m forgetting a lot of stuff.”

“It’s ruined my life,” Flores said between tears. “I just want my life back. That’s all I want.”

Flores is what the CDC calls a COVID long-hauler, someone who still has symptoms of the virus months after contracting it and no answer to when they’ll go away.

“That’s what’s driving me over the line, the not knowing,” Flores said. “I don’t know. Nobody knows.”

“It’s tricky, it’s tricky to get through,” said Dr. Andrew Shakespeare, Covenant Pulmonary Critical Care Physician.

Dr. Shakespeare and Dr. Kyler Barkley, a Covenant Interventional Cardiologist, have been treating COVID patients since the pandemic started.

They tell KAMC News with doctors still learning so much about this virus there are still so many unknowns including how it looks long term after contracting the virus.

“In patients that I’ve seen at 3 months their 6 month visit is totally different,” Dr. Shakespeare explained. “Sometimes because of improvement but not always. Sometimes it lingers I think it really depends on the patient.”

“Sometimes for these long-haulers sometimes it can take 12 months we don’t know if they’ll get back to that level that they were before,” Dr. Barkley explained.

“That’s why we want to see them to learn everything we can about what post COVID syndrome means from a lung, pulmonary and cardiac stand point to try to define groups and treat them appropriately,” said Dr. Shakespeare.

Flores has seen two doctors.

The latest telling him he could be experiencing nerve damage.

But without a clear answer Flores says he still feels hopeless.

“Am I going to be 60-years-old and still have this?” Flores asked. “Am I damaged for life? Can I be fixed?”

“I tell my wife everyday I want to meet people who are going through what I’m going through. When is that day going to come where I find out ok, I’m not alone in this,” Flores said.

But despite the year Flores has had there is a silver lining.

It brought him and his family closer and given him a different perspective on life.

“I don’t look at it like I used too,” Flores explained. “Because I know in a heartbeat something can come from anywhere and take something from you that you take for granted.”

There is some promising news coming for COVID long-haulers like Flores.

The Centers for Disease Control is expected to release guidance on how doctors can help patients experiencing this very soon.

The Mayo Clinic just released findings from a new study looking at COVID long-haulers.

It found that 80% of them had unusual fatigue, 59% still had respiratory issues and headaches and 45% reported some sort of brain fog.

75% of the people who still were having symptoms were never hospitalized for COVID and had more mild or moderate cases.

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