COVID-19 'long-haulers' work to regain basic skills, overcome 'brain fog' months after diagnosis

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021
COVID-19 'long-haulers' work to regain basic skills, overcome 'brain fog' months after diagnosis
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Chicago's Shirley Ryan Ability Lab has seen an increase in patients seeking therapy for the long-term effects of the coronavirus.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's known that COVID-19 can have long-term side effects for some survivors but new research suggests some of those effects can be devastating and even lead to death.

A British study found almost a third of recovered coronavirus patients returned to the hospital in five months and one in eight died.

Chicago's Shirley Ryan Ability Lab created a COVID-19 rehabilitation unit in April. And as the number of cases rise in the area, so does the unit's number of patients getting therapy for the long-term effects of the virus.

"I have seen young adult, middle aged adults, older adults, those with pre-existing medical conditions and those who did not have pre-existing conditions who had severe COVID pneumonia infections and ended up in rehabilitation," said Dr. Leslie Rydberg, Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, COVID Rehabilitation Unit Director

Mahmoud Ajamia was among the so-called long-haul patients at the Ability Lab, a previously healthy suburban man who did long-distance bike rides and half marathons. He spent four weeks on a ventilator then months of rehab to regain basic skills.

"I've gone through difficult things but i think this is one of the most difficult experiences I have had in my life," said Ajamia.

Maria Manfredini got COVID-19 in April and still gets treatment at Northwestern Medicine for pain and what some describe as "brain fog" that she says came at unexpected moments.

"You're anxious, it's scary, you're in this bubble of confusion," said Manfredini. "You're just very confused."

Both the patients and doctors ABC 7 spoke with urge vigilance to prevent getting infected with COVID-19.

"While there's been some progress made with the pandemic, I don't think it's over and I am concerned there could be individuals who could have long-term consequences," said Dr. Eric Liotta, Northwestern Medicine, Neuro-Critical Care.

Doctors at Northwestern Medicine's Neuro-COVID clinic will look for what may make some more susceptible to long term effects but for now it's unclear who will have the long term effects and just how long they may last.