In Connecticut, nearly 340,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Monica Burgos is one of them and she is still dealing with symptoms for more than a year.
“Energy wise where I used to be super energetic, I only have so many good hours in the day and then it’s good night,” said Monica Burgos a dialysis nurse from Waterbury.
She was diagnosed in April 2020 and still finds numbness in her hands and feet, no sense of smell and fatigue.
“I attempted to go back to the floor three different times and the last time I woke up in the hospital because I had passed out on the floor,” said Burgos who was also diagnosed with Lupus as a result of COVID.
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There are more than 100 symptoms people can experience for months after diagnosis.
“Shortness of breath, sometimes cardiac challenges, cognitive issues - people call it sort of brain fog,” said Dr. Tom Balcezak, chief clinical officer for Yale New Haven Health.
He says right now there’s only symptom treatment and possibly help with vaccine doses.
“There’s been anecdotal reports that many of these people have symptoms improve after getting vaccinated.”
The Yale School of Medicine began a study last week to research the effects of vaccines on COVID long-haul patients. NBC Connecticut Investigates first reported on COVID long-haulers in November, and followed up with them in April ahead of this study.
“So long-haul disease could be caused by persistent virus infection or autoimmune disease,” said Dr. Akiko Iwasaki who’s leading the study.
She says her research will see if there’s a connection between the vaccines and symptom relief. To determine one of those causes, they’re looking for COVID long-haul patients who have not yet received a vaccine.
“I’ve talked to people who’ve gotten the COVID vaccine and have gotten better and they tell me things like their brain fog is lifting and their shortness of breath is no longer there,” Iwasaki said.
She says that’s not true for all long-haul patients, which is why the study is important in finding treatment.
They’ll take blood and saliva samples from participants before their vaccine. The patient’s immune system will be monitored six and 12 weeks later.
“It’s very frustrating to have no good diagnosis and no good therapy so we’re hoping to contribute some knowledge there for millions of people suffering from this,” Iwasaki said.
Burgos is fully vaccinated and said her symptoms got worse for a few weeks. But she’s willing to adjust to a new life no matter what medical challenges she faces.
“I am so glad to be alive. I have a lot of living to do,” Burgos said. “One of the things that I learned the most is that people spend more time dying from COVID than they do living, and I choose to live. I chose to live.”