INDIANAPOLIS — Since the start of the pandemic more than 982,000 Hoosiers have contracted COVID and some of them are still feeling the repercussions of it.
“You don’t want to end up like this. You just don’t,” Bonnie Bruner said.
Bruner takes every opportunity to appreciate life and, nowadays, that includes listening to her daughter play music and sing.
They’re little moments she thought she might not live to see after she contracted COVID-19.
“There are a couple of kids at my daughter’s school that had come to school with COVID, and it ended up starting a huge outbreak in her school and they had to shut the school down last November,” Bruner said.
Even though Bruner doesn’t know exactly where she contracted COVID last November, she knows she tested positive for it.
“It was just two straight weeks of just feeling awful,” she said.
Worst of all, she said, she couldn’t breathe.
“Just feels like someone is sitting on you and you’re trying to get air in and you just can’t fill your lungs with air,” Bruner said
Now all Bruner can do is walk when she used to push her workouts four days a week at Orange Theory.
“Frustrating because I really enjoy exercising and working out and doing things like that. I really like to challenge myself in that area,” Bruner said.
As a healthy woman, she felt her heart-rate spike even while resting. So Bruner said she went to her doctor.
“She was like, you know, Bonnie, I really think you have COVID long-haulers syndrome. I’m seeing this with a lot of my patients, and I said what is COVID long-haulers syndrome?,” said Bruner.
Dr. Graham Carlos with Eskenazi Health said he sees long COVID in dozens of patients each day.
When asked when he first heard of long COVID and what he thought, Carlos said he realized it is more evidence that COVID-19 is not like the flu.
“Symptoms can vary people describe brain fog, memory loss, feelings of fatigue, others get muscle soreness and stiffness,” Carlos said.
Carlos said symptoms also include POTS syndrome, or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.
“When people stand up their heart rate races and they feel like they’re going to pass out,” Carlos said. "We are still early in this process, and we still have patients that are coming into clinics with ongoing symptoms over a year after they’ve had the original coronavirus.”
Now almost one year after Bruner got COVID, she said her symptoms come and go.
“I did go ahead and get vaccinated, and so far, my symptoms have improved somewhat, but they’re still there,” Bruner said.
However, for those like her who’ve never heard of long COVID before, she has a warning.
“I think what makes it so scary is that it affects people so differently and you just don’t know how it will affect you and what the long-term implications are,” Bruner said.
So, what’s being done to help those with COVID Long hauler’s syndrome? Carlos said there are now hospital clinics across the country, that specialize in long COVID.
He also said The BMJ has collected data showing COVID long-hauler’s syndrome is more prevalent in women.
So, he has another message for Hoosiers, who are both un-vaccinated and vaccinated.
“We are still seeing some long-hauler symptoms in breakthrough COVID. Which describes vaccinated people that get COVID. So, it’s something to be on the lookout for even in those of us who have been vaccinated and may have a mild breakthrough infection,” Carlos said.
As far as treatments, Carlos said there is no universal cure to COVID-19 yet, but there are some ways to help mitigate the individual symptoms people experience. The best thing you can do though is talk to your doctor about it.