Surviving COVID-19: The Untold Stories

During the beginning stages of COVID-19, there was a common refrain: “It’s no big deal. It’s just like the flu.” But just a few months into this global pandemic, we can already see the differences – and the toll COVID-19 has had on citizens, medical personnel, and survivors alike.

As of June 29, there are 10.2 million diagnosed cases worldwide, with 503,000 deaths. An estimated 80% of patients will recover without any serious side effects. But, says ICU nurse Shari PerrySmith:

Her tweet quickly picked up steam, with a growing number of responses sharing their experiences with COVID-19. From permanent organ damage to chronic fatigue felt by “long haulers,” the impact of COVID-19 might be longer-lasting, more intense, and more harmful than we ever thought.

As reported in Chron, here are some of the responses from patients who survived COVID-19.

Untold Stories

COVID-19 Related Organ Damage

According to 29-year-old Dan:

I’m currently in the hospital after having a heart attack caused by clotting that resulted from COVID-19. I have a stent in my heart and need to wear a heart monitoring vest at all times.

Professor Beverly Hunt explained that blood clots are common in severe coronavirus cases because the blood becomes exceptionally sticky. These can lead to deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolisms, and strokes. Heart attacks are also becoming more common for younger patients with COVID-19, leaving them with life-long organ damage.

Similarly, both 23-year-old Laney and 24-year-old Alicia, who are 8-12 weeks out from their diagnoses, still experience chest pain and shortness of breath. According to Laney, her lung damage is irreversible.

Respiratory Distress

Respiratory distress can exacerbate other conditions. 65-year-old Hollis Charles has chronic bronchitis, long-term bronchial inflammation resulting in some chest pain and breathing difficulties. While Hollis’ bronchitis only occurred 2x per year before 2020, he now experiences up to 4 attacks per month.
Sue Mii and her husband also experienced difficulty breathing when they were diagnosed 2 months ago. Writes Sue:
While my symptoms were mild, he nearly had to be admitted because he couldn’t breathe and now, a month after he’s recovered, we’ve discovered that he has permanent lung damage. This is not “just the flu.” It isn’t.

Unknown COVID-19 Symptoms

After “recovery,” some patients are grappling with strange and uncomfortable symptoms. Melly B. notes that she has chronic pain, difficulty urinating, and lower extremity inflammation. Stephanie McCarroll, whose condition requires dialysis, developed asthma, an irregular heartbeat, chronic fatigue syndrome, and a chronic cough.

According to a nurse in New York City, thick blood, kidney failure, and abnormal heart rhythms are actually extremely frequent in patients with COVID-19. However, doctors aren’t sure what causes these. Additionally, says the nurse, many people are becoming incontinent or unable to eat on their own. Beyond that:
Everybody is so swollen their skin has blisters and [is] weeping clear fluid and has sores and the skin just slides off.

Ultimately, as this pandemic continues, patient experiences need to be taken into account for treatment development.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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