COVID-19 long-hauler clinic to treat patients with lingering symptoms

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Imagine battling the effects of COVID-19 for a year. That's what one local woman has experienced.

She's known as a COVID long-hauler -- someone who continues to experience symptoms months after getting the virus.

Dona Murphey, 41, had COVID-19 in late March of last year, early on in the pandemic.

"Very mild respiratory symptoms. I had some mild G.I. symptoms. I also had some difficulty tracking multiple things at once in my head," said Murphey.

She says it was a mild case that lasted 28 days and after that she felt better.

"I was OK for about three weeks. I think I was pretty much fully recovered," said Murphey.

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Then she got a secondary bacterial infection. Murphey says after that, the symptoms never really went away. She had other symptoms from May to September of 2020.

"I had cognitive symptoms and also some psychiatric symptoms, like change in mood," said Murphey.

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It's been nearly 18 weeks of agony for Lisa Beard's 13-year-old son, Hudson, who contracted COVID-19 in November and has had symptoms ever since.

Some long-hauler symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, memory and concentration difficulties, heart palpitations, depression and anxiety.

Baylor College of Medicine is now working to treat patients with lingering effects. It's part of their Post COVID Care Clinic.

"We evaluate every patient for different aspects of the post-COVID symptoms and from there we decide on the best management option, which could be treatment," said Dr. Fidaa Shaib, with Baylor College of Medicine.

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Whether that requires someone in cardiology or psychology, Baylor has those resources available. It's something people like Murphey are grateful to see.

Murphey felt better in the fall, only to have symptoms return yet again in Jan. 2021. Then just recently she got the vaccine.

"Right before I took the shot, like I said, I was feeling like some of the drowsiness again, some of the brain fog," said Murphey.

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Murphey had some side effects from the vaccine, but since then she started feeling better.

There's some discussion among long-haulers who say once they got the vaccine, their symptoms were reduced or even stopped.

"I have felt better since but it's hard to know because this whole thing has been fluctuating. So it's hard to know if that actually has to do with the shot, or if it's something that would have happened anyway," said Murphey.

Dr. Shaib says while there's been no study done on the matter, she has read about it and says it's good news.

"The concept is there might be a residual element of the virus that is still in the body and the immune system that is boosted by the vaccine might be helping with that," said Dr. Shaib.

"I hope that it also motivates people to get the vaccine to avoid this potential outcome," said Murphey.

Those interested in the Post COVID Care Clinic can make an appointment by calling 713-798-2400.

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