New Clinic In Wexford Studying The Mystery Of COVID-19 'Long-Hauler' Patients

They're called "long-haulers," people whose COVID-19 symptoms linger for months. Now there's a local clinic dedicated to helping them; KDKA's Dr. Maria Simbra reports.

Video Transcript

- They are called COVID "long-haulers," people whose COVID-19 symptoms linger for months. And like so many other things associated with the virus, doctors are not sure why.

- But now there is a local clinic dedicated to helping long-haulers. As Dr. Maria Simbra explains, it's giving those patients hope.

MARIA SIMBRA: Last summer, Jennifer Gorzock got COVID. She thought she lucked out with only mild symptoms.

JENNIFER GORZOCK: I did fairly well with the infection. I never ran a fever. It was worse than a cold. But for the most part, I was completely managed at home. I didn't require any hospitalization.

MARIA SIMBRA: But just two weeks after recovering, she developed severe week-long headaches. Then weeks later, her heart began to bother her.

JENNIFER GORZOCK: I would get heart palpitations. I was short of breath, chest pain. And looking at my heart rate, I one time went up to 181 beats a minute.

MARIA SIMBRA: It got so bad, she had to be admitted to the hospital.

JENNIFER GORZOCK: And they said, we are starting to see a post-COVID. But it is so new, that we do not know if this is common.

MARIA SIMBRA: Even now, months later, she continues to have episodes of her heart racing.

For people like Jennifer who have had persistent symptoms for more than 12 weeks after their illness with COVID, there's a new long-haulers clinic here in Wexford and at other sites for different types of doctors to look into their different symptoms.

CHRISTOPHER PASTOR: There's cardiology, psychiatry, neurology, and primary care. We've seen persistent shortness of breath, cough, persistent loss of taste and smell, chest discomfort, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder even, too.

MARIA SIMBRA: Why long-haul COVID happens is still a mystery.

CHRISTOPHER PASTOR: We don't know why for sure. But the thoughts are that the immune system is still not recovered back to where it was pre-COVID. There's even thoughts that the virus is still lingering in undetectable levels.

MARIA SIMBRA: With help from her cardiologist, Jennifer now has appointments and tests lined up at the new clinic in June.

JENNIFER GORZOCK: All the symptoms are so random-- heart problems or memory function or mental fog or fatigue, muscle aches and pains.

MARIA SIMBRA: Even if the tests don't turn up anything, she believes just having this clinic geared specifically for long-haulers is a step in the right direction.

JENNIFER GORZOCK: You're still not well, and we just don't know why. So this clinic I feel will be just so helpful to help patients maybe understand what's going on.

MARIA SIMBRA: And to help them rehab and cope. I'm Dr. Maria Simbra, KDKA News.