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Metro Detroit doctors say coronavirus (COVID-19) survivors reporting mental health issues

Survivors finding road to recovery much more difficult than anticipated

DETROIT – Metro Detroit doctors say some coronavirus (COVID-19) survivors are reporting significant issues with their mental health.

Many survivors say once they leave the hospital, they think they’re basically done fighting the virus, but the road to recovery is much longer and bumpier than they anticipated -- both physically and mentally.

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“I just don’t feel right, and you know, people say, ‘Of course,’ because I had to deal with a life-threatening situation and I kind of get that, I guess, but still,” said Alonzo White, of Detroit.

White developed a fever in mid-March and went to lie down.

“When I woke up against, I was in the hospital and like three weeks had went by,” White said. “They told me I was in there and I was in a coma.”

White is still reeling from the experience.

He has faced challenges before. He lost both legs in a car crash seven years ago, but being stuck at home and isolated from family and friends makes this situation different, he said.

“We’re hearing a lot of people talk about the fact that they feel disconnected,” said Dr. Robin Hanks, the chief of neuropsychology at the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan.

Hanks said COVID-19 is unique in many ways.

“This particular condition really affects different people in different ways and in different parts of the body,” Hanks said.

It’s more than just anxiety and memory problems, she said.

“We’re also seeing some cognitive issues, some changes in their thinking abilities,” Hanks said. “Sometimes for people who have had more severe cases, we’re seeing problems that are complications from COVID-19 -- things like inflammation in the brain. Some people have had strokes.”

The Rehab Institute has launched a special COVID-19 recovery program to help survivors conquer lingering physical, cognitive and emotional issues.

“Don’t give up,” White said. “Just do whatever they tell you to do. Don’t be hard headed because this is something that none of us have any idea how to deal with.”

If you are a survivor and are experiencing any of these feelings or symptoms, talk to your doctor.

There are a range of treatment options available, and mental health and rehab professionals are prepared to help people through these challenges.

Some patients are suffering from a physical injury to the brain, but many are also being seriously affected by the overall situation, including the lockdown and isolation.

White said he feels like he’s living in a movie sometimes.


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