INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers continue to recover from the coronavirus, but some are seeing symptoms linger on far beyond their battle with the illness.
“It affected Dad’s lungs permanently and possibly his heart,” says Jason Osborn, whose parents had the illness. His father, Ron, battled it for 115 days across three hospitals. “It’s not a matter of if, but when he gets pneumonia.”
Osborn says his mother lost 85% of her hearing in her right ear and 15% in her left ear. She has since had to get hearing aids.
Doctors at IU Health have started COVID-19 ICU Survivor Clinic. Some of their patients have overcome issues like the loss of smell or taste, but others continue to be without both.
“It can also manifest as part of post-intensive care syndrome, so patients having anxiety, PTSD symptoms, depression, weakness, pain, and quality of life impairments,” explains Dr. Sikandar Khan, pulmonology and critical care physician at IU Health.
In interviews, Dr. Anthony Fauci described some of the lingering cognitive effects as being similar to certain post-viral syndromes. Molly Thomas was just cleared to go back to work, but the Hoosier says she has been experiencing memory complications.
“I didn’t know there were any neurological issues at all until I called the doctor. Even now, I am struggling to remember things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked my husband if he’s fed the dogs even though he’s told me six times, ‘I’ve fed the dogs.’ Same for TV shows, I don’t remember what happened the episode I just watched beforehand.” explains Thomas.
At the onset of her symptoms, and now, Thomas has been experiencing dizziness or depth perception issues. It’s caused her to walk into walls at the doctor’s office, and even in her own home.
“I was doing something, somehow slipped, and actually punched myself in the face. It was hard enough to make my lip bleed,” explained Thomas, adding that she can still not smell or taste, and has been testing her abilities, “I ate a whole jalapeño! I was like, ‘This a joke, you know? How do you lose your taste?”
“We don’t really know how long yet it’s going take for that to recover. I’ve seen patients who never lost their sense of smell to patients months out who still aren’t able to,” details Dr. Khan before turning to lingering cognitive issues with COVID-19, “There are going to be some patients again who are going to have more difficulty thinking, and it may take them up to two years to completely heal up.”
For reference, Dr. Khan says that with severe influenza patients he has seen those two-year recovery marks for some symptoms.
“We anticipate the symptoms will resolve, but how long it takes is really based on each individual patients’ recovery,” adds Khan, “Some of these [COVID-19] patients are ending up having clots in the blood vessels that supply the heart. We have seen people with a heart attack come in as the first big symptom of COVID-19.”
Dr. Khan says the survivor clinic at IU Health will help them gather data and an understanding of what happens after recovery.