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COVID-19 survivor says ‘recovered’ poor word for those with lingering symptoms

We’re learning more about the long-term impacts the coronavirus can have on the human body. Dr. Anthony Fauci feels we need to do more research because the studies and survivor stories we have now point to trouble. A COVID-19 survivor told us — five months later — she’s still dealing with the fallout from the virus.

At the onset of the pandemic, Christi DiPaolo told us her symptoms were excruciating.

“They did a CT when I got to the ER, and I had multiple blood clots in my right lung,” DiPaolo said.

The 22-year-old’s blood work was also off. She had a heart arrhythmia, pain in her chest and difficulty breathing. Thirty-five days later, Dipaolo tested negative for the virus, but her pain didn’t end.

“Since I tested negative, I’ve continued to have nerve pain,” Dipaolo said. “I’m on gabapentin — 600 milligrams, three times a day — I also have extremely bad joint pain and muscle pain.”

Dipaolo, a former NCAA Division I athlete, says, even now, she still has trouble walking because simply standing up causes her heart rate to jump, and she’s not alone.

“There have been some studies among people who recovered virologically who were without symptoms, and a substantial proportion of them on MRI had indications of myocardial inflammation,” Fauci said.

In one study, 60% of patients who recovered from COVID-19 had ongoing heart inflammation.

“It’s something we need long-term follow-up because this may be clinically inconsequential, or it could lead to chronic effects,” Fauci said.

“We’re very much teaching that COVID was a disease that you got and either recovered from or died from,” said Dr. Aaron Baggish, with Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center. “And I think we now have reason to pause and reassess that over simplistic approach to COVID-19.”

Fauci said up to one-third of COVID-19 patients can experience lingering symptoms for as long as weeks and months.

DiPaolo says recovery might not be the best term to use at this stage in the pandemic.

“I might have to be on blood thinners for the rest of my life,” DiPaolo said. “Testing negative for COVID might be the right term to use because we’re certainly not recovered.”

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Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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