‘I had all of these bizarre symptoms’: What ‘long COVID’ means and how it’s affecting millions

Experts still studying mysterious effects of long COVID

An estimated 23 million Americans are suffering from symptoms of “long COVID.” It’s being called the pandemic after the pandemic.

Answers about long COVID are still in short supply, and that’s leaving many people struggling to find the medical help they need.

Nitza Rochez, 43, said she got COVID in March 2020. She said she’s a healthy person, so she wasn’t worried until one night in April.

“I woke up in the middle of the night because of, like, a drumming or pounding sound,” Rochez said. “It was literally the sound of my heart, and I went to the emergency room.”

Several doctor visits followed.

“I had all of these bizarre symptoms, including trembling legs and arms, cannot move my legs,” Rochez said. “I started walking with a cane.”

It’s still unclear why some people develop long COVID. The best estimates state that around 30% of COVID patients still have symptoms at least three months after infection.

“It’s very frightening,” said Dr. Zijian Chen, who runs Mount Sinai’s center for post-COVID care. “I mean, it’s like stepping up to the gambling table at Vegas and risking losing everything.

“The thing that surprised us the most is really just the breadth of diseases, like, why so many different symptoms?”

Dozens of specialists made no difference for Rochez, until she visited a post-COVID care center.

“Instead of being dismissed, my doctor actually could finish sentences for me on how the symptoms were affecting me,” she said.

Steroids and physical therapy helped. She still battles brain fog and movement limitations, but she said she’s back to work and making great strides.

“I can exercise,” Rochez said. “Compared to a year ago, I would say I’m running a marathon right now.”

Experts said it’s critical that anyone suffering from long COVID keeps pushing for answers. Studies are in process to help determine the best treatments.

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.