AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW / WAGT) – Mask mandates are lifted. We have just experienced our first Masters tournament at full capacity for years and we feel as close to normal as we have felt for a long time.
It’s more than just a feeling. Our I-TEAM found the numbers to back it up.
We found that only six patients with COVID were admitted to Augusta University Medical Center in April compared to just a few months ago. In February, 153 patients at the hospital had COVID. The news is also good for our children. Only one admission to the Georgia Children’s Hospital.
But unfortunately, there are still many patients who handle the effects of COVID long after their positive test.
Our I-TEAM examines the long-term prospects for long-distance covid. It is 17 months ago that Marcia Bergtholdt was tested positive for COVID. But some days it feels like another lifetime.
“I woke up in the middle of the night with nausea and headaches. I never get a headache. I just do not get sick and sore. I thought, ‘ohh this is not good’, ”she said.
Her first case – was relatively mild and over quite quickly. But she began to realize – some of her symptoms – did not go away.
“It really left me with the brain fog. It was the worst. It was really bad,” Bergtholdt said.
Respiratory problems –
“Short of breath. I could go up the small steps and have to stop because I just could not breathe,” she said.
“For months, it fell out, just everywhere,” she said.
But the worst of it –
“What has stayed with me has been the headache. Sometimes a little dizziness, but the headache, they never went away. Ever. Sometimes they wake me up at night, Bergtholdt said.
She is one of an estimated 10 to 30 percent of COVID patients who experience Post-COVID after recovering.
The CDC defines Post-COVID as a wide range of new recurrent or persistent health problems that people may experience more than four weeks after first becoming infected.
Bergtholdt’s husband Dan has been there through the life-changing process.
“I have become much more sensitive to it. I can see in her eyes when she is really in pain. Her voice on the phone, I can basically see if she is having a good day or not so good day, ”he said.
Those are the not-so-good days – that make the unknown timeline for all this so tough.
“I do not know what the playoffs are. If you have some kind of hope, there will be a reasonable conclusion. It’s a lot easier to persevere, I think,” he said.
Bergtholdt said: “It is depressing. And I’m not a person who gets depressed so easily. ”
Researchers such as Dr. Ravindra Kohle at AU studies more than 600 COVID patients in a unique study – and tracks them all over time.
“I think the biggest factor in the decision is the damage – with what has been done. Is it reversible, or is it irreversible? I think that’s what we’re trying to figure out,” he said.
In some of the sickest patients, they have revealed a handful of rare gene variants – involved in body processes such as inflammation. With more research – it could be a key to understanding why patients like Bergtholdt – still suffer.
“If the symptoms are related to a reaction, then they will go away over time, but if it is permanent or irreversible damage, we will have to figure out how to repair that damage,” Kohle said.
Researchers and doctors are hopeful.
Dr. Jose Vasquez said: “I gradually believe that the majority of people will get better and make up their minds.”
As time goes on, they find that more patients are getting better and research is starting to unlock doors.
“There are some small studies that show if you get a booster, a COVID booster that improves long-distance covid,” he said.
Kohle said: “Our knowledge base is very small, but I think a lot of people are working on it – so hopefully we’ll start solving these riddles and mysteries one thing at a time.
For patients like Bergtholdt—
“It’s just really hard,” Bergtholdt said.
However, researchers are finding that the more severe the reaction to COVID, the more likely the risk of long-term symptoms. So researchers say the trend we’re seeing now – with fewer people hospitalized for COVID – is promising.
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