COVID-19 long hauler reflects on last year; She’s hopeful for breakthroughs, treatment, and answers

Hailey Hendricks

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Healthcare workers said they continue to learn from the pandemic, doing all they can to improve their efforts. And for a COVID-19 long hauler, she’s hopeful science will continue to provide answers to her pain.

COVID-19’s impact on the travel industry

University of Utah Healthcare professionals spoke Friday, reflecting on this last year. They said they continue to build on their understanding of the virus and how to help our communities. However, there’s still a lot of unknowns surrounding COVID-19.

“[We’re] doing all we can to improve patient care, science, education and our community. We still have a lot of work to do and we will continue to do it together,” said Dr. Michael Good, CEO of U of U Health.

Lisa O’Brien is one of many Utahns who continues to try and understand some of the side effects that have plagued her from the beginning to now.

2020: A coronavirus year in review

O’Brien began to notice she didn’t feel well just days after she returned from a trip to Hawaii.

“[On] March 11, I started having symptoms and just started to not feel good, body aches, had a mild cough, but never had a fever,” she said.

Eight weeks after experiencing COVID-like symptoms, she said she began experiencing internal vibrations through her body, along with other health concerns.  

“I had really intense body aches I couldn’t get rid of. I started getting high heart rates, but would also catch my heart rate really low,” O’Brien said.

Just a few weeks later, more health issues arose.

“Then a blood clot at week 11 in my arm, and week 12 one in my lungs,” she said about her declining health. “I started getting cognitive issues. And the week after that, my heart started calming down and then neurological issues started showing up.”

Early on in the pandemic, O’Brien recalls there being limited testing and information.

“You had to have all three symptoms in order to qualify for testing because it was just so limited,” she said. “It was really difficult being one of the first people and trying to get people to believe me.”

Nearly a year later, O’Brien is beginning to get answers. She, along with 100 patients are participating in Utah’s first post-COVID treatment program at the Bateman Horne Center.

This virus has caused O’Brien to struggle with cognitive issues, fatigue, insomnia, Post-Exertional Malaise, and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.

Daily, she tells ABC4 News, she doesn’t know if or what symptoms she’ll wake up with.

“Now I have days where I feel pretty close to normal, but if I overexert myself, I will relapse,” O’Brien said.

While her health is much different than it was a year ago, she remains optimistic.

“I’m hopeful that 2021 is going to be a year of breakthroughs and treatment programs and answers,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien is not the only one who continues to suffer with COVID-19 side effects. She has created a Facebook page called, ‘Utah COVID-19 Long Haulers’.

Here, she has created friendships with people she said she would otherwise not have known.

“I think everyone is supposed to cross our paths for a reason. I look at all the good stuff we’ve done and I haven’t done it all alone,” O’Brien said.

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