Kansas long-haul COVID-19 shares horrors, triumphs over months-long recovery

TOPEKA – Before becoming a COVID-19 ‘long haul’, Mikayla Dreyer never took sick leave from work, never took medication and often traveled long distances.

Then in December, before the 29-year-old Kansan could be vaccinated, the disease struck. Although it calmed down normally, Dreyer continued to experience frequent chest pain, fatigue and tremors five months after testing positive.

The situation worsened when she began to lose sensation in her hands and, in turn, to drop objects. Dreyer became frustrated as she continued to lose control of her body until she needed a wheelchair.

“Other people can’t physically see what’s going on, but they can see that something is going on and they don’t know what it is,” Dryer said. “Then I have to deal with the emotional and mental aspect. “Do I want to talk about this now?” “”

The reality that the effects of COVID-19 were not leaving her anytime soon led her doctor to refer her to the post-COVID clinic at the University of Kansas Health System. The clinic includes medical experts from various specialties who develop a plan for each long-haul COVID-19 patient.

Long-haul people are people who have not fully recovered from COVID-19 weeks or months after experiencing the first symptoms. Some long-haul travelers have symptoms for weeks or months, while others feel better for weeks, then relapse with old or new symptoms.

With the variety of symptoms long-haulers can experience, developing a personalized plan is crucial for recovery. For Mikayla, this included a lot of physical therapy to strengthen her body and medication to keep her blood pressure low so that she wouldn’t pass out on getting up.

“Now I can take very smooth and easy walks and hikes,” Dryer said. “Hills and stairs are always a beast. I don’t know if it will ever get easier. I’m still losing my breath doing these things, even though I’m making a lot of progress.

Dryer is optimistic she will continue to make progress in her recovery, so much so that she has booked a vacation with a kayaking trip next month.

Brandon Comfort, an internal medicine specialist for KU Health System who works at the long-distance clinic, said 180 million people around the world have reported long-distance symptoms like Mikayla’s. He said most of the clinic’s patients see complete relief from post-illness symptoms within a year or two.

“Don’t look at this in days. Don’t compare it to yesterday. Compare it in weeks and months, ”he said. “More often than not, we see improvements in these big chunks of time.”

Even with this treatment option, Comfort encourages those he treats to get vaccinated.

Steven Stites, chief medical officer for the KU Health System, urged caution as temperatures start to drop and people start to reenter indoors.

“This is just one more reason to get vaccinated because I think the data is getting stronger and stronger that vaccination, even if you get COVID-19, reduces the risk of long-term syndromes,” Stites said. “Not only does this decrease the numbers, but it also makes it much smoother, thus faster recovery.”

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