'There's no end in sight': Road to recovery complicated for COVID 'long-haulers'
OROMOCTO, N.B. -- It was nearly a year and a half ago, in January of 2020, that Coty Powall of Oromocto, N.B., contracted what she and her doctors believe to have been a very early, and serious case of COVID-19.
"When I would cough, it felt like I had glass in my chest," says Powall, "I could barely take breaths at all."
Today, the 40-year-old home daycare operator is still dealing with the after-effects of the illness, many months later – suffering from severe symptoms that include intense pain, fatigue, numbness, and insomnia.
"The after effects are worse than the actual illness was, and there's no end in sight at this point," says Powall.
"I'm terrified to go off of this medication, because all it's doing at this point is suppressing this pain."
While they may be considered to be recovered from the virus, many, like Powall report lingering and often debilitating post-COVID symptoms.
"I hit a wall on July 3 (2020) and I had this huge wave of fatigue hit me, I did not even understand what was going on," says Jennifer Mont of Halifax, who is also dealing with lasting health issues that have persisted long after getting the virus.
"My cough came back, my chest pains came back –that was one of the other things I was experiencing with my time with COVID, I was experiencing some intense chest pains."
An online support group for COVID-19 'long-haulers' in Canada has now reached nearly 14,000 members – offering support and connection for a condition that is still not well understood.
Researchers at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., are among those studying to learn more about the long-term health effects and complications from the COVID-19 virus.
The most important finding so far, biology professor Vett Lloyd says, is that the evidence validates what patients have been saying.
"They are very ill, they have multi-system symptoms, pretty much everything is affected – it can be debilitating and it can be ongoing, in some cases it can be worse than their experience with acute COVID," says Lloyd.
The research to date also reveals that the road to recovery for those dealing with long COVID, can be winding.
"With some people, they get better then they get worse. Some people it's very much a relapsing and remitting pattern, other people get a little bit better then plateau, other people they get better – it just takes a long time."
Lloyd says the study is ongoing and they will continue until there is a solution for those who are sick. The study, is called Chronic Complications of COVID-19 and is available online.