HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A new study released this week, found one-third of hospitalized COVID-19 patients develop a brain disease caused by inflammation in the brain.
Dr. Gustavo Roman, Professor of neurology at Houston Methodist, said the deadly virus can cause a variety of long term health effects to several organs which can lead to chronic illness, headaches, fatigue, and prolonged loss in taste and smell.
"The damage has been made and we don't know how long it's going to last," Dr. Roman said. "It is a virus that has multiple weapons that affect the blood vessels, the lungs, the brain. It can produce stroke, heart attacks, and a number of combinations. It can affect the kidney and the liver so it is a very dangerous enemy."
Dr. Roman said the best line of defense is prevention.
"Use your face mask and to keep the social distancing and wash your hands, but we need to do it urgently," Dr. Roman said.
Kevin Swearingen from Lumberton is spreading awareness about COVID-19 and the devastating impact it has had on his family and close friend.
"It's not just the elderly that this affects, it can affect anybody," Swearingen said. "You know I just had a friend pass away that was 45 years old and before he even passed they had to take both his hands and both his feet. You know this is something serious and it's real."
Swearingen's 16-year-old daughter Charlee, is on life support at Texas Children's ICU. He said Charlee was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Rett Syndrome. He said when the pandemic hit, he was terrified that Charlee would be at-risk and the family took precautions.
Roughly two weeks ago, Charlee's oxygen levels suddenly dropped and she was taken to a local E.R. and released. The same week, she was transported to Texas Children's Hospital after a series of seizures.
"With the ECMO most likely, if she wakes up she will be on a trach(ea)," Swearingen said. "So we'll have to learn how to take care of that and you know the risk of blood clots and everything else that goes along with it. Blood clots to the brain can cause some brain damage. It can cause lung damage. There's a lot of things that COVID does that the average person don't know."
Swearingen said they have received an outpour of support from the community, after sharing Charlee's story and their family's push to allow both parents to visit their daughter, while in the hospital.
Charlee's 17th birthday is in 10 days and while they don't know what the future holds, Swearingen said he is hopeful.
The Swearingen family set up a Facebook fundraiser to help with medical expenses and Charlee's fight to beat COVID-19.
"What I've seen and what I've seen it do to my daughter, is just heartbreaking," Swearingen said.
For more information on long term effects caused by COVID-19, click here.