The coronavirus pandemic has grabbed headlines and stunned medical professionals for more than two years. As time progresses, doctors and other medical staff are learning more about the virus and its long-term effects on the body. While there is much left to be discovered, doctors and nurses are beginning to explore COVID’s lasting affects extending beyond patients who have tested positive after contracting the virus.
FOX 2 News anchor Maurielle Lue has been forthcoming about her battle with what is referred to as Long Haul COVID. In an open letter, the news professional details her diagnosis and side effects that emerged after seemingly recovering from the virus. Problems with memory loss, strong urine smells, extreme fatigue and chronic pain are all symptoms the reporter said are associated with her long-term COVID diagnosis. A native Detroit nurse is experiencing the same and wants to sound the alarm on an issue she feels is getting no attention.
Nurse Danielle Bailey was diagnosed with COVID-19 in November 2020. After experiencing common symptoms associated with the virus, the nurse prepared for her battle with COVID. A trauma nurse, the decorated medical professional prides herself on being quick-witted, but when her memory began to slip, along with the emergence of several other side effects, fear began to settle in.
“With me having a memory loss like that, I didn’t want to engage with my patients,” said Bailey.
After consulting with her primary care physician, Bailey was able to confirm that the memory loss and other symptoms were a part of a more extensive issue.
“Some of the long-term effects are extreme tiredness, people experience hair loss over three months after they are experiencing COVID. People have joint pain. Sometimes you’ll continue to have headaches. I experience depression and anxiety. I am still experiencing that and I’m still experiencing brain fog,” said Bailey.
Brain fog refers to the lapses in memory some patients experience after COVID-19. While it is unknown why the memory is affected after the infection, brain fog is being reported in an increasing number of COVID-19 patients.
“It’s a virus and attacks every place in the body. Even the brain — it can go and damn if some of your memory receptors which are causing those things that happen. It’s causing the depression to happen,” said Bailey.
She soon discovered she was not alone in experiencing some of the lingering effects of the virus. Reaching out to others who had tested positive for COVID, a small community began to form, who too had started experiencing Long-Haul COVID.
“I asked a lot of other people, just as support, if they were going through those issues too and they were. They weren’t even aware that COVID had long-term effects because no one talks about that. All we’re talking about is the vaccine and COVID but no one is talking about the long-term effects,” said Bailey.
The National Institutes of Health identifies long-term COVID-19 symptoms as PASC, or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2. According to the CDC, patients who experience the long-term effects of COVID can qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The CDC qualifies long-term COVID as a mental and physical impairment impacting several major aspects of everyday life. Aside from the damage it can cause to the heart, lungs and kidneys, it can also create post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD and, such as in the case with Bailey, depression and anxiety.
The healthcare system is overwhelmed. According to a report from the American Nurses Association, more than 500,000 seasoned nurses are expected to leave patient-facing roles by the end of 2022 due, in part, to vaccine mandates and the continual uptick in cases. Already experiencing burnout, as nurses leave the field a new strain is placed on the decreasing number of nurses available.
“Now it’s you have to take the vaccination or lose your job. You need to take the booster or you lose your job,” said Bailey.
Although the pandemic is still looming, the effects of long-term COVID may improve for some patients over time.
“I don’t have the memory loss so much as I did before, but I do have my moments where it’s like I’m still forgetting or can’t complete sentences at times,” said Bailey.
Despite the personal effects of Long-Haul COVID, the first-hand account helps to better understand patients as they come in to treat the virus. Additionally, knowledge can be extended to others for prevention and awareness.
“It helps me understand what other patients are going through and I try to educate my family or educate anybody who is willing to talk about it so that they’re aware,” said Bailey.