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'A very lonely place to be': Take COVID-19 seriously, long-haulers warn

Caroline Catherman, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Health & Fitness

ORLANDO, Fla. — On the rare occasions when Vero Beach resident Neil Passmore goes out in public, he’s often the only one in a mask.

When Passmore caught COVID-19 in June 2020, the virus hit him hard: He shook with chills, struggled to breathe, his heart raced and he had trouble regulating his body temperature. He also experienced disassociation and memory loss, among other symptoms.

In the weeks and months after his infection, he noticed some symptoms weren’t going away, and some were getting worse. After five weeks, he was often confused, stuttering and calling things by the wrong name: mailboxes became post offices, coconuts became pine cones, palm trees became pine trees.

Doctors eventually discovered optic nerve and brainstem damage.

His second round of COVID-19 in August 2021 made all his symptoms worse, particularly his cardiac symptoms.

More than two years later, he still struggles with regulating his body temperature, a rapid heartbeat, tinnitus, dizziness and neurological symptoms. His ongoing cognitive issues make it impossible to return to his job as a Walgreens pharmacist. He’s terrified of getting COVID-19 again.

 

“I went from having a very good job, living like you’re supposed to, working hard... for months and months, helping sick people every day,” he said. “Then I get sick, and blam! That’s it. You don’t know... if you’re going to be able to keep your house and your vehicles. Your way of life has definitely changed.”

Passmore has long COVID-19, known also as long-haul COVID-19, or Post COVID-19 condition.

The CDC estimates as many as one in five adults who catch COVID-19 may go on to develop long COVID-19, defined by the World Health Organization as symptoms in people previously infected that last for at least two months and cannot be attributed to anything else. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath and cognitive dysfunction but the range is broad.

Now, as new, ultra-infectious subvariants of the COVID-19 omicron variant drive up COVID-19 cases, advocates say it is more important than ever to speed up awareness and research the origins and treatment for the condition.

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