It’s been almost five months since Shelby Hedgecock tested positive for Covid-19, and the former personal trainer said her symptoms are still debilitating.
Hedgecock is among patients who call themselves “long-haul survivors” – those who experience symptoms long after testing positive. And long-term effects like theirs need to be taken seriously, a doctor researching these symptoms told CNN on Monday night.
“This is the conversation that needs to be had in the medical and the research community, not just in the sufferers who are actually dealing with it,” Dr. William Li said.
Covid-19 can be a prolonged illness, even among young adults without underlying chronic medical conditions, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in July. Thirty-five percent of patients surveyed by the agency said they still weren’t back to their usual good health even two to three weeks after testing positive for the disease. The rest said they’d returned to their usual state of health five to 12 days after a positive test.
Hedgecock first tested positive in April. And though she tested negative in May, she is still having neurological issues, cognitive issues, shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of smell and body aches and pains that send her to her bed for days if she participates in even gentle yoga, she told CNN.
Hedgecock’s experience is not unique, Li said. His team is looking to connect the symptoms, with data pointing to the virus not just affecting the lungs but the blood vessels that connect the whole body, the doctor said.
“We think that this long-term damage may in part be due to vascular damage, kind of a footprint that the virus leaves even when it’s gone from the body,” Li said.
With still so much medical professionals don’t know about the virus and its impacts on the body, they can’t say how or if patients like Hedgecock will recover completely.
“I think what is really humbling to those of us in medical research and clinical care is when we confront something we just don’t know enough about,” Li said. “But we need to take it seriously, and we need to have the humility to recognize that were just starting to observe and collect the data right now.”
The not knowing is terrifying, Hedgecock said, but she is confident long-haul coronavirus is going to leave a mark on the US.
“This is going to be a public health debacle that is going to last for decades to come,” she said.