COVID-19: Nurses In It for the Long-Haul
The toll that COVID-19 continues to take on nurses who’ve recovered from the virus.
When the virus hit the U.S.in early 2020 and began spreading and flooding hospitals, nurses jumped in and did what they did best – battled the crisis and helped sick and dying patients in the best ways they could. Nurses and healthcare workers knew they were in it for the long-haul, but they couldn’t have known at the time that the disease would linger in more ways than one.
According to WebMD, since May of this year, over 1,500 nurses worldwide have died from COVID-19 – this number is expected to be grossly underestimated; this number is jarring and hard to hear. But there’s another number that we don’t yet have a count on that is increasingly affecting nurses, healthcare workers, and COVID-19 patients around the world – the number of those who experience lingering virus symptoms after recovery – otherwise known as long-haulers.
It’s no secret that COVID-19 can present a tough road of recovery for patients, no matter their health. But once patients test negative from the virus, it’s understandably expected that with the disease’s disappearance the symptoms will go to; we’re finding, however, that this isn’t always the case. For a growing number of patients, nurses included, long-term symptoms following COVID-19 recovery are experienced. Long-term virus symptoms can include:
- Brain fog, memory problems
- Joint pain
- Body aches
- Continued coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Severe and ongoing headaches
- New or continued loss of taste and smell
- Severe fatigue
The New York Times published an article in September that included the story of a nurse practitioner, Angela Aston, who is considered a COVID-19 long-hauler. The article describes how Aston battled the disease for months, with continued fevers and fatigue. Adding to the problem was the added anxiety and depression that accompanied her battle, stemming from health concerns and trouble communicating her problems to friends, family, and coworkers. Aston explained to the Times, “I felt this stigma like, ‘I’ve got this thing nobody wants to be around. It makes you depressed, anxious that it’s never going to go away. People would say to my husband, ‘She’s not better yet?’ They start to think you’re making it up.”
Another nurse in Tennessee, Tisha Alexander, had her long-haul journey profiled by Nashville News 4. Alexander, who has been a nurse for 20 years, found herself on the other side as a patient in February when she contracted COVID-19. By the time the article was featured in late October, Alexander had been battling long-term symptoms of the virus for most of the year and a once active and busy nurse is now reliant on her sons to help take care of her. Alexander told Nashville News 4, “The person that I was and the person that came home from the hospital are two totally different people and it’s hard to come to terms with that. This isn’t a joke. This isn’t something made up by the media. This isn’t something that is just a political stunt. This is real.”
So, why are some nurses and patients experiencing long-term symptoms following their recovery from COVID-19? Unfortunately, there isn’t really an answer yet. A recent 60-Minutes feature with Anderson Cooper explored what some experts are thinking. Among these experts are doctors at New York’s Mt.Sinai hospital who are exploring the after-effects of COVID-19 and one doctor, Dr.McCarthy, who is experiencing long-haul COVID-19 effects herself. A couple of theories that are being considered by the medical community and those at Mt.Sinai include a heightened immune response that never went back to normal and begins damaging organs and the possibility that the virus still lingers in small amounts in the body.
Have you or someone you know experienced long-haul COVID-19 symptoms? We want to hear your story. Reach out to us on Facebook or comment below.