Patient's Life After COVID-19: The Road to Recovery
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A 31-year-old patient, one day felt perfectly fine, and the next she was hit with fever, diarrhea, fatigue, coughing fits, severe body aches, and the worst headache of her life for the first few days. Her blood pressure was dangerously low, her heart rate was racing, and a chest X-ray showed pneumonia in both lungs. She was admitted to the hospital and tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Her test came back positive 2 days later.

Although her symptoms improved enough for her to go home, she left the hospital with abnormal liver tests likely caused by the medicine she received, low iron levels, a persistent cough with lots of phlegm, and continued weakness.

Doctors are just starting to learn what recovery from COVID-19 looks like and whether it will cause long-term damage to its survivors -- both physically and mentally.

Doctors stress that most people who have COVID-19 are likely to recover without any long-term effects. "In most cases, over 80% of people don't have severe disease, so most people are going to recover fully," say an infectious disease specialist

Still, doctors are seeing a growing list of related health impacts beyond just respiratory problems, including the digestive system, heart, kidneys, liver, brain, nerves, skin, and blood vessels. For people with the severe and critical disease, dangerous immune system and blood clotting responses can also cause a lot of damage throughout the body and may result in long-term health effects. For some, kidney damage may require long-term dialysis, strokes, and blood clots may lead to disability, and scarred lungs may lead to permanently decreased lung function. The treatment itself -- whether it is time on a ventilator, in the intensive care unit, or certain drug therapies -- may also cause lasting harm.

A study of hospitalized patients in Wuhan, China, found that survivors recovered after a host of complications: 42% had sepsis, 36% had respiratory failure, 12% had heart failure, and 7% had blood clotting problems. Though these patients survived, it's not clear what recovery will look like for them.

From Survivor to Recovery

It took her weeks to be as physically active as she had been before COVID-19. And the coughing took a long time to stop. Over time, her liver and iron lab test results returned to normal as well. Beyond her medical recovery, she struggled with a sense of isolation after her hospitalization. She says connection with her family absolutely helped her pull through recovery, but it still took her a full 6 weeks from her first symptoms before she was back to her usual self.

Dr. N●●●●a S●●h and 12 others like this7 shares