Central Virginia Health District investigates lingering impact of coronavirus in Lynchburg

Lynchburg, Virginia – New research is underway about long coronavirus, the long-term illness that follows coronavirus infection, and how it affects our communities.

10 News anchor Rachel Lucas spoke to a woman with a long-term condition to show how studying cases like hers can help others find a cure.

Margaret Martula of Alta Vista has made health care her life’s work as a certified nurse for 31 years.

Now, six years after she retired as a doctor and has tested positive for the coronavirus three times since then, visits to clinics for lingering symptoms have become commonplace. But this time she is a patient.

“It changed the trajectory of my life a little bit, but it hasn’t stopped me. In fact, my hashtag is going to live until the day I die.”

Margaret has tested positive for coronavirus three times.

The last and most serious is the new coronavirus pneumonia.

“It’s affecting my lungs and it’s affecting every system in my body.”

Six months later, Margaret was still battling debilitating symptoms.

“I was sitting in that chair over there and I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t go to the bathroom. I couldn’t function. My husband said, ‘You’re still here.’ . Because I can’t do anything and end up crying.”

And even more upsetting, a former LPN with more than 30 years of experience said she feels like some doctors are gaslighting her.

“When I go to the emergency room with my blood pressure over 120 and 230, they tap me on the shoulder and say it’s just anxiety and you should go home. One night, when I went, what was going on? I don’t remember, but he gave me two Tylenol and told me to go home.”

But her story is not unique.

The CDC estimates that 5% of the U.S. population is suffering from long-term COVID-19 infection.

Symptoms include brain fog, difficulty breathing, cough, fatigue, and nervous system problems.

Kari Anderson, a COVID-19 epidemiologist with the Central Virginia Health District, said there is no single test to diagnose COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is very difficult to diagnose because it is so widespread and there are so many different symptoms and conditions that people can get. Depending on the type of symptoms you have, you may need to see different doctors.”

That’s why she’s leading new research into long-term COVID-19 and how it’s impacting our communities.

“We are very excited about the impact it will have on our residents in particular, because rural counties are often overlooked in a lot of data and research, so being able to do this locally I’m really excited about it.”

Anderson’s team will conduct extended interviews with coronavirus patients like Margaret.

They also want to hear about lingering symptoms and struggles to find treatments.

“It’s very frustrating because I know what I need and no one is willing to help, so I’ve pretty much given up on it. I’ve had Laurie get a neurologist, an immunologist, a cardiologist. I am in charge of interventional medicine, endocrinology, and urology at UVA.The functional physicians are located in Maryland.”

Margaret said functional medicine has been the most helpful, which led to an anti-inflammatory diet and led her to seek out holistic options like mushroom coffee.

“This is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

She says she learned to advocate for herself as a nurse.

“I learned a long time ago that the doctor has 15 minutes to deal with you, so you have to put on your big girl pants and figure it out yourself. They have time to research it. They don’t have time to think about it.”

That’s why she and Anderson’s team are participating in a research project in Lynchburg that encourages people suffering from long-term COVID-19 to share their stories.

Mr Anderson said he hoped the results of the project would be published and shared with the medical community, leading to positive changes in the way long-term COVID-19 infections are diagnosed and treated.

Click here to learn more about the research.

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