HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - If you get COVID-19, you may not be done with it after the initial sickness.
Patients with lingering symptoms are called "long-haulers."
Experts predict there are millions of people out there dealing with lasting COVID-19 symptoms.
Chesapeake resident Glenn Edwards is one of those people.
Edwards starting discovered running when he was 54 years old after experiencing heart problems several years ago. He said the doctors told him that, “The only reason I'm alive today is because of my exercise habits and the condition and shape that I’m in.”
He runs, bikes and is extremely active. He is also an ambassador for the local running business Running ETC and is adored in the local running community.
Edwards was in shape and ran a half marathon in early 2020.
"When I was training for that half [marathon], I felt the best I had ever felt,” said Edwards.
Then he got COVID-19 over the summer, but he says his symptoms weren’t too bad. He said he recovered and went back to his passion of running but then continued to experience problems. He said he had trouble breathing and didn't feel right.
“I just didn’t understand why I'm getting worse. I'm running and I should be getting better, but I'm feeling like I'm getting worse,” said Edwards. “The only thing that has happened to me since 2018 is COVID, so for my heart to drop that much over that short period of time, the doctor said it's obvious.”
Edwards said he is considered a COVID-19 long-hauler. He said his doctors believe COVID-19 continued to have an impact on his body.
“COVID long-haulers are basically patients that have been infected and have persistent symptoms often for months at a time,” said Dr. Scott Kelly, the Chief Medical Officer and Head of Business Development for CytoDyn Inc., a biotechnology company about start a clinical trial on long-haulers.
Dr. Kelly said many patients experience fatigue.
“Some also have persistent coughing and tightness in the chest, and many complain of what's called 'brain fog,' where they have cognitive dysfunction; where they're having trouble thinking as clearly as they did prior to getting infected with COVID,” said Kelly.
Scientists and those in the medical field are working to figure out how many people are impacted, but Kelly said some conservative studies show that about 10% of COVID-19 patients become long-haulers.
He said many COVID-19 long-haulers did not experience serious symptoms when they were originally diagnosed.
Lydia Hamaric lives in North Carolina and said she believes she is a long-hauler.
“My fatigue was so bad to the point where I literally felt like my soul was being taken out of my body - little by little with a straw, if that makes any sense at all,” said Hamaric.
She suffered many different medical problems that she associated with getting COVID-19. She said she lost her sense of taste and smell for several weeks, had brain fog, had to go to the hospital and continues to suffer.
She said her taste and smell have still not returned to normal.
“Chickpeas, meat and eggs all taste like metal, so it's been a very weird experience,” said Hamaric.
“It's kind of scary because there's not enough information here for the professionals,” said Edwards, “They don't know what they don't know; they need more data. They're examining studies like mine all the time.”
Edwards praised his doctors and all the people that have helped him through this experience.
Dr. Kelly said his company is working to try and find solutions.
“We're all doing this in real time, so it's kind of uncharted territory, so that's what we're working with the FDA right now,” said Dr. Kelly.
He said they’re hoping to find medication and treatment to help long-haulers.
“Just don't take it for granted that because you had COVID that it's over, you're done. You might not be done,” said Edwards.
He still runs, but he’s been forced to slow down and runs with a partner. He said it is mentally challenging and frustrating to slow down because he knows what his body was capable of.
He wants to regain his full strength and stamina and continue to be part of a community of people he loves. Edwards wants to raise awareness about long-haulers as many out there suffering long after they’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Click here to learn more about Glenn Edwards.