Long COVID patients struggle to get benefits: "We're left behind"

·2 min read

Since Renee Larsen contracted COVID-19 in March of 2020, she has suffered one medical ailment after another.

"I had a stroke," Larsen told CBS News. "I've had blood clots in both legs. I've had paralysis in my right arm three times."

She says debilitating fatigue upended her 22-year career in human resources.

"When the chronic fatigue hit, my world changed because I could not function," she said.

Unable to work, she lost her job. Unable to pay her bills, she lost her home and is now living with a friend. She spends her days seeing one doctor after another.

"Everyone has a different take," Larsen said. "Every doctor, I have 23 doctors. Before this, I only had asthma. So this has changed my life."

There is no universal clinical definition for long COVID, but there are more than 200 symptoms associated with it. Nearly one in five COVID-19 patients will experience long-haul symptoms that can last months or even years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Some of the more common symptoms that I'm seeing are brain fog, fatigue, depression, shortness of breath," Dr. Ted Long, senior vice president of ambulatory care at NYC Health + Hospitals, told CBS News. "But there are some of my patients that have symptoms that are less common, things like hair loss."

Larsen is also fighting to get insurance benefits. She says she's been denied disability both from her employer and Social Security. Attorney Joshua Ben said his COVID-19 clients are often met with skepticism.

"A lot of people have a lot of different symptoms, but they're not showing up on the testing," Ben told CBS News. "And Social Security is looking for objective testing. So it's really difficult."

Larsen said she feels forgotten.

"We're left behind," she said. "I think that we're the forgotten people of COVID right now. We're survivors, and we're telling our story of how we're still here."

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