Central Virginia Health District studying long-term COVID-19 impact in Lynchburg

Lynchburg, Virginia – New research is underway about long-term COVID-19 (long-term illness after coronavirus infection) and its impact on our communities.

10 News anchor Rachel Lucas interviews a woman suffering from long-term symptoms and shows how research into cases like hers can help find treatments for others.

Margaret Martula of Altavista has been a licensed practical nurse for 31 years and has made health care her life’s work.

Now, six years after she left the industry and three positive coronavirus tests, lingering symptoms have made doctor visits the norm. But this time, as a patient.

“It kind of changed the trajectory of my life, although I didn’t let it stop me. In fact, my label was that I would live until I died.”

Margaret tested positive for COVID-19 three times.

The last and most serious one is COVID-19.

“It affected my lungs, it affected every system in the body.”

Six months later, Margaret is still battling debilitating symptoms.

“I’m sitting in the chair over there, I can’t move, I can’t think, I can’t walk to the bathroom. I can’t function. My husband said, but you are still here. Because I will cry because I can’t do anything.”

Even more frustrating, the former LPN with more than three decades of experience said she felt like some doctors had been gaslighting her.

“I would go to the ER with a blood pressure of 230 over 120 and they would tap me on the shoulder and say it was just anxiety and to go home. I went in one night and I don’t remember what happened, but he gave me Two Tylenol and let me go home.”

But her story is not uncommon.

The CDC estimates that 5% of the U.S. population has long-term COVID-19.

Symptoms may include brain fog, difficulty breathing, coughing, fatigue and neurological problems.

Cali Anderson, a COVID-19 epidemiologist with the Central Virginia Health District, said there is no single test that can diagnose it.

“COVID-19 is so widespread and people can have so many different symptoms and conditions that it can be difficult to diagnose. Many times, people have to see different doctors based on the type of symptoms they are experiencing.”

That’s why she’s leading new research on long-term COVID-19 and its impact on our communities.

“We’re really excited about the impact it can have, especially for our residents, because rural counties are often overlooked in a lot of data and research, so we’re really excited to be able to do this work locally.”

Anderson’s team will interview long-term COVID patients like Margaret.

They want to understand lingering symptoms and even work to find a cure

“It was very frustrating. I almost gave up because I knew what I needed, but no one was willing to help. I have a neurologist, an immunologist, and a cardiologist in Raleigh. I’m studying interventional medicine at UVA , Endocrinology, and Urology. Functional Physicians in Maryland.”

Margaret says functional medicine has been the most helpful, leading her to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet and look for holistic options like mushroom coffee.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

As a nurse, she said, she learned to advocate for herself.

“I learned a long time ago that you have to put on your big girl pants and figure it out for yourself because doctors have 15 minutes to deal with you. They don’t have time to study it. They don’t have time to think about this.”

That’s why she’s working with Anderson’s team on the Lynchburg research project and encouraging other people living with COVID-19 to share their stories.

Anderson said the results of the project will be published and shared with the medical community, hoping to produce positive changes in the long-term diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.

Read more about the study here.

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