The most common symptoms of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 include shortness of breath and fatigue. Molly Williams, a top athlete in the UK, describes being sick for about three months due to COVID-19.
Molly fell ill in March during a time that the world was just beginning to understand the dangers of coronavirus, its symptoms, and possible long-term effects for patients. Until now, she described that 'being breathless is becoming my norm.'
She is one of the many long-haulers, patients who initially had mild symptoms of coronavirus, often not hospitalized, yet suffers prolonged symptoms for weeks and months. Most of these individuals were deemed healthy before the pandemic.
In a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March, they noted that about 80% of patients with mild symptoms recover in about 14 days. Another group, however, take months to recover, such as Molly.
As a physiotherapist, she began to volunteer at Bradford Royal Infirmary when the outbreak began in the UK. Just like some of her colleagues, she became infected with coronavirus due to constant exposure to the hospital.
No Medical History
During her teenage years, Molly was an elite gymnast who eventually transitioned into Crossfit. At 34 years old, she had become one of the UK's top 20 CrossFit athletes. However, her persistent illness in the past months had done some serious damage.
'My resting heart rate used to be 50 and now it's about 90,' she shared. 'Even with talking, I get breathless. I'm getting overwhelming muscular fatigue in my legs and my heart rate goes up to 133-plus on walking.'
In addition to respiratory symptoms, she experiences waves of emotion and difficulty with remembering things. 'I'm forgetting things, and I'm repeating things a few times, I'm just not retaining information. If I try and remember a word I can't. I'm having to write things down all the time just to remember them,' she described.
What contributes to overwhelming emotions of the lingering damage is that she's had no medical history in the past. 'For it to hit me the way it has is really hard,' Molly said.
Dr. Christopher Babiuch from Cleveland Clinic in Ohio said that dealing with long-haulers 'is challenging because everyone's needs are so unique. We're finding that collaborating as a team between different specialists helps to manage and support these patients, but there's a lot that we just don't know yet.'
Babiuch shared that long-haulers seem to be random groups of people ranging from healthy individuals to people in the high-risk category with underlying or chronic medical conditions. With the pandemic going on for less than a year, there is not enough data to make definite conclusions explaining the long-term effects of coronavirus.
Currently, a few health care systems are designing monitoring programs for patients with long-term individuals. Since most long-haulers aren't admitted to hospitals, medical experts from pulmonology, infectious disease, primary care, and even mental health institutions are keep track of these patients.