Covid has presented many different challenges to the healthcare industry, including equipment shortages, medical challenges and staffing problems. One challenge that no one is prepared for is the long-term health problems that many people have experienced as a result of Covid. Doctors are seeing signs that the virus needs to be removed after weeks, months and long.
“At the medical school, we obviously don’t have long COVID,” said Nathan Rabinovitch, director of the pediatrics department at National Jewish Health.
Doctors across the country are learning how to treat and diagnose long-term covid. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines prolonged Covid as a broad spectrum of new, recurring, and ongoing health problems that persist more than 4 weeks after someone first contracted the virus.
At National Jewish Health, Rabinovitch dedicated an entire floor to chronic COVID in the pediatrics department. Patients come from all over the country to be treated there.
“All the kids on this floor have a behavioral therapist. They get well. They get physical therapy, and they’re seen by multiple doctors, and that’s what you need to have. You need a quarter and a lot of specialists,” Rabinovich explained.
He said National Jewish Health is uniquely positioned to provide this type of multidisciplinary care because it provides multidisciplinary care for many lung diseases. In most cases of Covid, more than just the symptoms of the virus are being treated, there are often some secondary issues that need to be treated as well.
“I think of Covid as the great accelerator,” Rabinovitch said. “If you have some type of exposure to a disease and you get COVID, it seems to increase your risk of getting that disease,” he said.
That’s what happened to Keira Thompson.
“My covid symptoms weren’t that bad, so when I got back it was pretty easy. Then 2 months later I got really sick,” Thompson told CBS News Colorado.
Thompson is a national championship-level volleyball player. She plays on a club team as well as for the Lakewood High School team.
“I mean volleyball… it’s my whole life. It’s my passion,” she explained.
Covid threatened to take away her senses.
“There was a time when we talked about whether I was going to stop playing volleyball,” she said.
“Most people think when they get Covid it goes away for a week and they’re back to normal. What was it like for you when the symptoms came back?” asked Michael Spencer of CBS New Colorado.
“I felt so defeated. I wanted to serve in the military and play volleyball in a high-level volleyball program. But unfortunately, I couldn’t serve in the military after having all my stuff since the long covid,” Thompson replied.
She describes many debilitating symptoms, including chest pain, difficulty eating, dizziness, and brain fog.
“My version of a good day at this end is barely getting out of bed and eating.”
She was treated at National Jewish Health for two weeks. She was diagnosed with new-onset asthma and orthostatic intolerance (POTS), a condition in which a person falls when they suddenly stand or move. Both diagnoses bar Thompson from serving in the military and from playing volleyball at her former level.
“I’m getting better every day, so hopefully in the next few years I’ll be completely better, but I’m not sure,” she said.
Thompson is still taking 36 medications and supplements to help alleviate some of the lingering symptoms.
“If you look at her lung function, Keira is doing better, so I think she’s improved and will continue to improve,” Rabinovitch said.
Thompson has a wonderful, resilient spirit. She has long been a beacon of hope for teenagers with Covid and plans to start a support group this summer. A lot of people still don’t believe long Covid is real because it’s so important to connect with other people who are going through what you’re going through, she said. In addition to helping other people, Thompson has new plans for her future.
“I hope to play D2 volleyball at a Christian school. I want to own my own business, hopefully, my own volleyball club.”