COVID-19 'long haulers' will now receive additional care at new clinic

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Doctors are learning that some people who become sick with COVID-19 can suffer from symptoms months after they no longer carry the virus.

The first post-COVID clinic is now open in Houston to help those patients considered "long haulers".

Rudy Cabrera, 52, is a healthcare hero. Cabrera is a registered nurse who has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic until he became infected with the virus on April 25.

"Stayed in the hospital for about six days. Got me on some oxygen therapy. Gave me several medicines and then I was discharged home," Cabrera said.

But his symptoms didn't go away. Nearly seven months later, he said he still has trouble doing everyday tasks.

"I remember one day I went to wash my car, my truck and it took me two hours to wash it. I get so fatigued and short of breath I had to sit down," he said.

He's not the only one.

SEE ALSO: How Houston is preparing for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine

Director of the UT Physicians post-COVID-19 clinic, Dr. Bela Patel, says they have found 70 percent of patients have prolonged shortness of breath.

Ten to 20 percent of patients have developed lung disease after fighting COVID-19.

UT Health in Houston recently opened the post COVID-19 Center of Excellence clinic to study the virus, and help patients who are suffering from prolonged symptoms.

"The clinic will actually bring a multidisciplinary team of physicians together who have developed expertise in this area to help manage the patients through their symptoms, but also learn from patients to make sure we continue to evolve," Dr. Patel said.

Cabrera says he is getting better day-by-day, but he's not back to the healthy runner he was pre-COVID.

"You catch the flu, and you're sick three to four days, and then you are better, right? This one, it just stays on you," he said.

SEE ALSO: Number of people in Houston-area testing still falling, health authority says

Dr. Patel says most patients will improve over time with personalized care that the clinic provides.

She says if you had COVID and after a month you are are still suffering from shortness of breath, brain fog, fatigue, or if any of your symptoms have gotten worse, you should call the clinic or go online and make an appointment.

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