Coronavirus

Long Haulers Advice to Others Still Battling COVID-19: ‘Keep Getting Help'

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It is estimated about 10% of people who contract COVID-19 will deal with prolonged symptoms. What’s not clear, is why it happens to some but not others.

Some people go weeks or months with serious health issues. They’re called "long haulers" -- people in a long haul battling the virus.

Aaron De Leon barely survived COVID-19 in November.

The 40-year-old Tyler resident was hospitalized after thinking he could "ride out" the infection at home.

Aaron De Leon of Tyler in the hospital

He said the virus almost killed him. But the recovery has brought its own challenges.

De Leon said he knew something was very wrong with his health about two weeks ago. He was having trouble breathing, felt immense pressure in his head, experienced a fast heart rate and numbness in his legs.

He said he went to his doctor but was told he was merely experiencing problems because he is overweight.

De Leon was sent home but was persistent until tests were run.

“The CAT scan showed I didn’t have a blood clot. It showed I had a significant amount of fluid around my heart,” he said. “The doctors did mention there’s a chance that it could be related to Covid. They just don’t really know enough about Covid at this point to know how it acts long-term in people.”

President of the Dallas County Medical Society Dr. Mark Casanova said that in some "long-haulers," COVID-19 is impacting the heart.

Casanova did not treat De Leon and spoke only in general terms.

“We saw a lot of this coming out of Italy,” he said. “COVID-19 directly affecting the heart.”

Health experts have outlined potential long-term effects of the coronavirus on the entire body.

A review in the journal "Nature Medicine" published Monday, described potential challenges for a subset of long haulers: those who suffer damage to an organ.

“One of their primary organs is significantly affected,” Casanova said. “Whether it be their lungs, their heart, their kidneys, and in some instances in their brain and they have confusion or encephalopathy.”

Some could be diagnosed with inflammation of the heart or myocarditis.

“What that can do is weaken the heart muscle, causing congestive heart failure,” Casanova said.

He urged long haulers to keep in communication with their physician, especially if they are experiencing trouble breathing.

De Leon said he underwent surgery to remove about one liter of fluid from around his heart, but experienced complications and was placed in a medically induced coma to aid in his breathing.

De Leon survived and was released from the hospital Monday.

He described emerging from a 22-hour coma as an experience that “was as close as I can relate to being born.”

Although he continues to struggle with numbness in his legs, De Leon has a new lease on life and urged fellow long haulers to listen to their bodies.

“You know something’s wrong with your body, keep getting help,” he said.

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