BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Almost three million people world wide have died from COVID-19 and we are still learning more about the toll the infection is taking on survivors.
Kent Taylor, founder of the popular restaurant chain Texas Roadhouse, committed suicide Thursday after a battle with severe post-COVID-19 symptoms.
A Johns Hopkins doctor said he’s not alone in the long struggle physically and mentally.
"The breathing was just so bad," said Calvin Mahoney.
It’s unlike anything Mahoney has ever experienced.
"It’s just like breathing through a straw all day long," said Mahoney.
The 32-year-old father of two from Gaithersburg has been battling post-COVID-19 symptoms since last April. He's been unable to get a diagnosis for what’s causing his pain. His scan and tests, all come back normal even though he feels far from it.
"It’s been a year and just been miserable," said Mahoney.
An estimated 10% to 30% of people who survive COVID end up with enduring symptoms, ranging from fatigue and “brain fog” to sleep disorders, fever, breathing issues and depression. The growing group nationwide calls themselves 'long haulers'.
"The mental is actually a little worse than the physical, just not being able to provide how I used to.... Not being able to do what I'm supposed to do for my kids," said Mahoney.
In his darkest moments, it feels like all hope is lost.
"Two days ago, I was telling my wife, 'I don’t want to wake up'," said Mahoney.
But he fights on for his family with the hope that maybe one day soon he can go back to work; that maybe one day there will be treatment.
One source of strength is Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos and the Johns Hopkins post-COVID-19 clinic.
"Even if we don’t have the answers, we have to advocate for our patients," said Galiatsatos.
They work with post-COVID patients, addressing all aspects of care.
"Severe depression, severe anxiety, severe social isolation. Physically, where a lot of them feel like they have to learn to walk again," said Galiatsatos.
Galiatsatos said their most common referrals are for mental health professionals, and after seeing all the attention given to developing vaccines, he wants to see an equal amount given to addressing post-COVID-19 and mental health.
"We need mental health resources now more than ever... If you want to fulfill medicine as a public trust for all, we need to do it now more than ever in the pandemic and put resources for patients like Mr. Calvin," said Galiatsatos.
Last month, the NIH announced a four-year, $1.15 billion dollar initiative to study what causes long COVID.
Galiatsatos said the clinic is full with patients for at least the next month and they are looking for more resources to see more patients. E-mail PACT@jhmi.edu to find out more information about becoming a patient at the clinic.