Vermont family looks for answers to long COVID

Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 7:22 PM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - As the world tries to turn the page on the COVID pandemic, many people continue to suffer with symptoms of so-called long COVID. One Vermont family is trying to bring more awareness to the issue.

Charles Vallee -- his family called him Charlie -- grew up in South Burlington and later moved to Washington D.C., where he was an intelligence officer. Last January, Vallee got COVID. His family says he recovered quickly from the initial illness but that the effects lingered.

“Brain fog and headaches, inability to sleep, were all part of the typical long COVID symptoms that Charlie was going through,” said Skip Vallee, his dad.

Vallee’s family says those symptoms tortured him. He died by suicide in May.

The UVM Health Network COVID-19 Recovery Program is for people suffering from long COVID symptoms. UVM Medical Center pulmonologist Dr. David Kaminsky helped start it and says Vallee’s long covid symptoms are not unique. “That’s actually very common and frustrating problem is the brain frog, the change in memory, clear thinking and things like that,” he said. “Most common symptoms are extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, and this brain fog. Then there are at least 50 or 60 other symptoms.”

Lisa Lee, a nurse at Rutland Regional Medical center, participates in the program. “Your whole entire life becomes debilitated,” she said. “You take that from being an active person -- your activities of daily living, your work, your career, if you’re going to school, your home life -- All that stuff is just gone. So, in your mind, you’re a vegetable.”

Lee says the support group as well as yoga and meditation have helped her. And now Vallee’s family is working to look for answers. They’ve created the Charles M. Vallee Foundation, raising millions for research funding. “We are still trying to get this focus. I think we are more interested in finding ways there can be... it’s a research foundation but use the research efforts to create awareness for parents going through this,” Skip said.