Local ‘COVID long hauler’ describes mysterious condition

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 8:27 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - While COVID has killed almost 400,000 Americans, most patients suffer only mild symptoms and recover quickly. But up to 10% of survivors continue to experience symptoms from the virus weeks or months after getting it. Doctors call them “COVID long haulers.” Channel 3′s Christina Guessferd talks to one Burlington woman who worries her body and mind will never be the same.

“My life has literally been hell since this all started,” said Makayla Kidder. For her, it started in April, when a test confirmed she’d contracted COVID-19. “My initial infection was pretty mild. I wasn’t intubated, anything like that. I was pretty much just sleeping 16 hours a day. I had muscle pain, body aches, those kinds of things... horrible migraine.”

But unlike most COVID sufferers who get better in a matter of weeks, Kidder’s symptoms refused to subside and instead became debilitating. “I made it working until June 14, until I literally could not get out of bed,” Kidder said. “After that, it all just went downhill.”

Kidder has documented more than 100 inexplicable problems, from neurological pain to psychological issues. The drained and devastated 27-year-old says up to this point, she rarely even caught a cold, now she says she’s never felt sicker. After dozens of appointments, doctors are still struggling to diagnose her. Some have prescribed anti-anxiety medication. “They were like, ‘Nothing’s wrong with you physically, this is all in your head,’ pretty much. They just sent me back home, and it was a complete waste of my time,” Kidder said. Finally, she poured over medical journals reporting stories of people with similar experiences. Quickly Kidder realized, she’s not alone.

Medical professionals around the world are mystified. One thing researchers have only recently concluded --the condition is real, though widely misunderstood, and it’s plaguing people right here in our community.

Kidder says she’s found solace and strength in social media support groups. Thousands of people throughout the world are turning to Facebook pages, looking for any answers, and brainstorming possible solutions.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says COVID long haulers here should feel heard, not shrugged off. “As a clinical community, we need to believe in it and embrace it and try to help people as best we can, prior to knowing if there are any more specific therapies we could use,” Levine said. He says as many as 600 Vermonters who fall under the COVID “recovered” category could be suffering from the syndrome right now. He says the health department is developing a strategy to survey long haulers, but nothing’s set in motion, yet.

Kidder says she hopes that happens soon. “I just want to get better. I want to be able to go back to work. I want to be able to live my life again,” she said. “I personally feel like I’m more of an expert of this than doctors are, at this point.”

Kidder fears she’ll feel this way forever. She says the worst part is not being believed -- people telling her she looks perfectly healthy. She’s so desperate for answers, she’s offered to donate her DNA to the medical community and is considering visiting a Post-COVID clinic in Albany, New York. These types of research sites are popping up across the country, conducting extensive studies on long haulers.

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