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Lingering COVID-19 symptoms like brain fog, fatigue and severe migraines have Illinois making plans for long-haulers

Darcel Rockett, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Health & Fitness

CHICAGO — Pilsen resident Blair Rohrbach, 37, laughs a little when she tells her story.

Diagnosed with liver disease at 16, she had a liver transplant in August 2019 and had finally felt comfortable enough in her recuperation to leave her mom’s residence. She had two weeks of normalcy at her home, then in March 2020 the coronavirus lockdown began.

“It’s funny that I basically went from one quarantine to another — basically quarantined post-surgery, I was like “Freedom!” and then two weeks after, it was lockdown.”

And then in September last year, she tested positive for COVID-19 and has been experiencing symptoms ever since — fatigue, brain fog, migraines that last for days at a time.

“It’s been pretty frustrating to not feel like my mental capacity is where it was before I got COVID, because right before COVID I was finally feeling a lot better after having this life-changing surgery,” she said. “I was like ‘yeah I’m gonna exercise and I’m gonna do all this stuff’ and then I got hit with COVID. I am incredibly lucky I didn’t have to go to the hospital, didn’t have breathing problems. I’m thankful that I never lost my sense of taste or smell. But the other symptoms just never really seem to go away. Even after I took multiple tests to make sure I was still negative.”

Rohrbach has long COVID-19, a range of symptoms that can last weeks or months after first being infected with COVID-19 or can appear weeks after infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

It can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19.

Estimates suggest 10% to 30% of people who get COVID-19 will develop long COVID-19, according to Dr. Jerry Krishnan, University of Illinois Chicago associate vice chancellor for population health sciences and professor of medicine and public health.

“The CDC estimates that about 33 million Americans tested positive for COVID-19, which means 3 to 10 million Americans likely have or have had long COVID,” Krishnan said.

National and local initiatives are being formed to understand and treat patients with the condition.

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