KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) – Doctors at the University of Kansas Health System are treating an increasing number of patients with lingering effects and symptoms from COVID-19.
These patients, known as ‘long-haulers’, experience a range of symptoms from mild to severe. More than 33 million Americans have tested positive for coronavirus; doctors say based on recent data a third fall into a ‘long-hauler’ category.
Some people who have contracted COVID-19 quickly recover, but many are continuing to struggle for months after testing positive for the virus. Anil Gharmalkar tested positive for COVID-19 in April 2020, shortly after returning home from work a regional truck driver. He suspects he came in contact with someone who had the virus during one of his trips. A year later, Gharmalkar is still battling symptoms including inflammation from the virus in his throat.
“I just didn’t see it coming and affecting us the way it affected me,” said Gharmalkar.
Doctors at the University of Kansas Health System have been treating him; he was one of their first long-hauler patients.
“Now that we are a year into this, we are seeing a bigger influx of patients,” explained Dr. Keith Sale, MD.
Dr. Sale is leading the hospital system’s long-hauler clinic, which opened earlier this year. The clinic is expanding to meet demand and is also facilitating virtual visits for patients who live further away. There are currently 15 physicians and 8 specialties available to treat patients from across the Midwest.
Terri Geller, 59, is a candidate for the clinic, even though her symptoms are not as severe. Geller tested positive for COVID-19 following a small family gathering in October 2020. For five months, she experienced body aches, brain fog, and extreme chest pain.
“I couldn’t figure out why these [symptoms] were lingering,” said Geller.
After being fully vaccinated, Geller’s symptoms lifted, but she’s still working to regain her sense of smell and taste. Dr. Sale says researchers are investigating why some long-hauler patients see improvements after receiving the vaccine.
“With what they know now, they probably are a lot better than they were then,” emphasized Gharmalkar.
The hospital system is tracking patients who have tried all available therapies. Right now, patients with severe linger effects, like Gharmalkar, will have to wait for new therapies and treatments to emerge and hope they work.