Patients treated for COVID-19 now coping with 'Long COVID'

Posted at 6:05 PM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 18:25:14-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — As research into COVID-19 continues, doctors are finding that even after patients are treated and recover, they are dealing with lasting symptoms.

"It was pretty serious. It was pretty serious," said Russell Frisby.

Frisby is one of those patients. The 69-year-old was diagnosed with COVID-19 back in March.

"By the time I got to the hospital, I could barely breath," said Frisby.

He was hospitalized for 5 days and discharged, but he is still dealing with the lasting impacts almost six months later.

"I was getting better for a few weeks and then sort of the bottom dropped out because I’m a lifelong asthmatic and I have lung scarring," said Frisby.

His breathing worsened and he couldn’t even do things around the house without getting winded.

"It was really impossible for me to work. I was tired a lot. I had difficulty breathing. I was on four nebulizers a day plus all kinds of other asthma medicines," said Frisby.

At that time, he was negative for COVID-19 but still the symptoms persisted. It’s a condition now called 'Long COVID'.

"Most commonly we are seeing people with ongoing shortness of breath and fatigue that can last for months after initially being diagnosed with COVID-19," said Dr. Sarath Raju.

Raju is an instructor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a specialist in pulmonary medicine. He is caring for Frisby as an outpatient through the Johns Hopkins Post Acute COVID-19 Team. He said 'Long COVID' is more common in patients than they had expected and while some have pre-existing conditions like Fribsy, others don’t.

"We’re seeing relatively healthy people in the 20s to 30s who are still have 'Long COVID'-type symptoms in people who are healthy prior. And I do want to emphasize this is something we are still learning about. We’re still trying to understand what predisposes certain individuals to having these symptoms versus others," said Raju.

"For all intents and purposes, I'm a test subject. Doctors don’t know. We expect by November I should 100 percent but there's no way of telling," said Frisby.

Frisby is getting better slowly. He is only just now able to return to work as an attorney since March.

"I'm a lot better. I’d say at about 90 percent. I’m still on all the asthma medicines. I had to resume asthma shots," said Frisby.

And he’s not alone. His wife is battling 'Long COVID' too. She was hospitalized for the coronavirus in April and has been having issues because of her asthma too.

They are determined to get through it and spread the message that COVID-19 prevention is very important.

"There’s nothing we can do about it now except move forward and hope everything turns out for the best," said Frisby.