Working for a long period of COVID | Richmond Free Press

Natarsha Eppes-Kelly has worked hard for the past four months to establish a new normal in her life.

A Dinwiddie resident and former mortgage specialist who now works as a beauty and skincare entrepreneur, Ms Eppes-Kelly contracted COVID-19 in late August. Unable to get vaccinated at the time due to her diabetes, Ms Eppes-Kelly initially focused on screening the rest of her family and assessing the potential impact.

The greater effects of her infection were quickly becoming clear within just a few days when she went to bed but seemed unable to wake up. It lasted four days.

Ms Eppes-Kelly was rushed to hospital by her husband when she was found unconscious and barely breathing. His infection resulted in months of care at a Richmond hospital and later, treatment at home, as the long-term effects of COVID-19 waned and reappeared again and again.

Now, nearly nine months after contracting COVID-19, Ms Eppes-Kelly is on the road to recovery at the Sheltering Arms Physical Rehabilitation and Therapy Center in Bon Air, where she has started rehab for her fatigue. , reduced lung capacity and physical decline. new year’s day.

The experience can be grueling, with Ms Eppes-Kelly taking regular breaks between activities and needing a portable oxygen machine to help her breathe. But her determination to regain a measure of the health she lost to COVID-19 is clear. And through the deep breaths she takes as she trains, she repeats a simple phrase: “I get it.”

“Mentally, I struggle every day. I break down sometimes. But I have to remember that I’m doing this for a reason,” Ms. Eppes-Kelly said. “I feel like it’s something I had to cross. I am very strong on faith and driven by faith, so I feel like it was my destiny.

Ms Eppes-Kelly is one of about 200 people with post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, also known as ‘Long COVID’, being treated at Sheltering Arms, according to Dr Jason Seltzer, head of therapy services. who serves as his physiotherapist.

On a larger scale, Ms. Eppes-Kelly is among 7.9 million to 23.9 million people in the United States who are struggling with the long-term effects of COVID-19. This represents around 10-30% of those who have been infected with the virus.

In Virginia, an estimated 166,237 to 498,712 people are COVID long-haulers. These large numbers are forcing a change in how the medical community, including doctors, therapists and others, is dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19.

“I think we’re in a state of evolution,” said Dr. Seltzer, who noted how long COVID symptoms add to the challenges when it comes to providing the best possible medical treatment to those affected.

“I think we’re learning that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for treatment,” Dr. Seltzer said. “The way I treat one patient is very different from the way I treat another. Diagnoses alone are not the only thing that can guide treatment and therapies. Interventions and management approaches must be adapted.

While Ms. Eppes-Kelly’s condition has caused a major change in his daily life, for Ed Coleman the long COVID has been a hill he has struggled to climb since the pandemic began. Mr Coleman first discovered his infection in early 2020 during a routine visit to McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center in South Richmond. The virus has caused serious health complications. He was even placed in a medically induced coma to help stabilize his blood pressure and other functions that were erratic under the effects of the virus.

He was 76 at the time and had a history of health issues. Treatment for COVID-19 was still nascent at the time, and doctors were unconvinced of its chances of a cure. Today, he continues to strive for improvement as he acclimates to his new state of health.

“I’m still recovering,” Mr. Coleman told the Free Press in late March. “And I guess it will last a little longer.

“I’m still on oxygen 24 hours a day and I’ve gone from six liters to three, but it’s an effort, you know,” he said.

The initial impact of long COVID also took a mental toll on Mr. Coleman. He acknowledged cognitive impairment due to the virus, known as “brain fog”, even briefly forgetting during his recovery at home that he had lost a son in 2019.

Currently, Mr. Coleman continues to teach Shotokan Karate as much as he can and he regularly walks around his neighborhood of Chamberlayne Farms to improve his health.

Ms. Eppes-Kelly is also struggling to adapt to the cognitive impact of her COVID-19 infection. This required her to relearn parts of her new business and the work she had put into it before. Like Mr. Coleman, family support has been a major benefit for Ms. Eppes-Kelly. She said her family members have stepped up to help her with her entrepreneurial ambitions and family life and to help improve her physical and mental condition.

“They’ve been such a big help,” Ms Eppes-Kelly said. “It was a lot that was thrust upon them and they answered the call.”

The situations of Ms. Eppes-Kelly and Mr. Coleman are stark reminders of the high costs that the virus presents for many, if not months, after initial infection and despite the wide availability of vaccines.

Delegate Delores L. McQuinn knows the situation all too well in both her professional and personal life. On March 14, she gathered with people from Virginia Union University for COVID-19 Memorial Day, a day set aside by the Virginia General Assembly to remember the more than 20,000 Virginians who have lost their lives. life since the start of the pandemic. The resolution to make March 14 a day of remembrance each year was sponsored by Delegate McQuinn and approved in the 2021 legislative session.

The effects of COVID-19 have taken their toll on Delegate McQuinn’s own family. Delegate McQuinn, her husband, Jonathan McQuinn, and their daughter, Daytriel McQuinn-Nzassi, continue to monitor and manage their long-running COVID symptoms, including shortness of breath, headaches and exhaustion. While Delegate McQuinn and her daughter’s symptoms are mild and sporadic, Mr. McQuinn’s moderate symptoms have caused him headaches, feelings of exhaustion and unexpected medical bills.

Delegate Delores L. McQuinn, right, and her husband, Jonathan McQuinn, and their daughter, Daytriel McQuinn-Nzassi, were stricken with COVID-19 in March 2020. They continue to have mild to moderate symptoms two years later late.

Delegate McQuinn has mixed feelings about the authorities’ initial response to the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on communities of color. The trauma caused by COVID-19 continues to hit black and brown communities, she said.

“We did some things well, but I also think in retrospect there were some things we could have done better, and not just in Virginia but as a nation,” Delegate McQuinn said. “I hope we still understand that there are vulnerable communities. You still have to be careful. You have to be careful about how communities are affected.

She believes more needs to be done to ensure a better quality of life for those affected long-term by COVID-19 as well as those who have lost friends and family to the virus. This will require more help from those in positions of power, she said. No expense should be spared to correct and close the gaps in care and research that have occurred so far in the pandemic.

“I know people are going to say, ‘Do you know what this is going to cost?’ said Delegate McQuinn. “I don’t know the final cost, but I know that many people have already paid for the negligence of those who should and could have helped us better understand this disease.

“We have a responsibility and we have an obligation to do what we can to help these people.”

The big question now is how society can better understand and adapt to the long-term health consequences of COVID-19. Millions of people across the United States, including Ms. Eppes-Kelly, Mr. Coleman and the McQuinn family, are likely to be affected by COVID-19 for years to come.

Dr. Seltzer stressed the need for long-term research into the long-term effects of COVID, as well as an expansion of understanding and awareness of symptoms to properly respond to the changes it will bring. to individuals and groups.

“The more people who are aware of the long symptoms of COVID, the more health care providers looking to address it, the sooner we will find a solution,” Dr. Seltzer said.

Nationally, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia introduced a bill in early March focused on improving understanding and response to long COVID, while accelerating research into the affliction.

In this May 2020 photo, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine wears a mask as he listens to testimony during a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington .  Senator Kaine, who has had nerve tingles since contracting COVID-19 two years ago, recently introduced legislation to raise awareness of long COVID and treatment options.

Senator Kaine’s own development of mild and long COVID symptoms, which include a constant nervous tingling two years after being infected with the virus, has been a major influence in his efforts to help people living with long COVID. The bill, called CARE for Long COVID Act, would raise awareness about Long COVID and treatment options.

“We still don’t know much about it,” Senator Kaine said. “That’s why we need to do more research, get more information out, and then come up with treatments that work for people.”

Although his bill and a $10 billion COVID-19 spending bill had yet to pass Congress, Senator Kaine seemed confident the legislation would find the support it needed to pass.

“Employers also need to know how to accommodate employees with things like Zoom and telecommuting and open up opportunities for people they might not have had before,” he said.

Dr. Seltzer believes the growing response to the long COVID by the medical community will have a positive impact on the treatment of people with the virus and other long-term conditions.

“I’m glad to see more and more long-term COVID clinics popping up because it’s a place where a patient with just one condition can go and be seen by specialists,” Dr. Seltzer said. “It sets a good example of how chronic conditions and illnesses should be managed in the future.”

Ms Eppes-Kelly urged people facing a long COVID future to work tirelessly to improve their health after infection, but not to overwhelm themselves with the effort.

“Take it day by day, hour by hour,” Ms. Eppes-Kelly said. “Just give yourself grace and be patient.”

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