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‘That’s the untold story’: Doctors concerned about unknowns of long-lasting COVID-19 symptoms

“I’ve been in this business 40 years. I’ve never seen anything more terrifying than this, anything more perplexing than this,” Wiltse said.

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As restrictions are lifted and a light at the end of the tunnel begins to appear after an entire year of fighting COVID-19, doctors are concerned about complex and devastating issues emerging with those who have ongoing problems after fighting off the virus.

People who have had COVID-19 and continue to have problems are known by what doctors are calling the inadequate title of “long-haulers.”

At Tri-Health Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, they’ve set up a rehabilitation unit to help those suffering from lingering conditions like shortness of breath, fatigue and cognitive problems.

Gail Donovan caught COVID-19 in December and said it not only affected her health but even her sense of identity.

“I still almost feel like I have COVID, although I don’t have COVID. I feel like it’s still altering who I am prior to COVID,” Donovan said.

Donovan said one of the most aggravating problems is trying to keep thoughts together.

“Sometimes the thought goes out like a light, like someone turning a switch off, like I don’t even know what the conversation was about,” Donovan said.

She’s not alone.

“That’s the untold story, the untold part of this tragedy, the 50 to 70% who are living with a lot of disabilities,” said Tri-Health Dr. David Wiltse.

Wiltse is a pulmonary critical care specialist. He said the latest information shows even 6 months after COVID-19, many are suffering.

Wiltse said 75% have profound fatigue, 50% have cognitive issues, 50% have psychological issues, nearly 50% have general muscle issues and difficulty breathing and about 10% have serious lung damage.

“I’ve been in this business 40 years. I’ve never seen anything more terrifying than this, anything more perplexing than this,” Wiltse said.