News & Stories

Post-COVID-19 Recovery Program

December 15, 2020

Some COVID-19 survivors have symptoms that won’t go away

Denyse Lutchmansingh, MD,
associate director, Post-Covid-19 Recovery Program

THANK YOU for helping open a clinic for COVID “long-haulers”

IT’S NOT SURPRISING that Carlos, who was so terribly sick with COVID-19 for so long, has lingering symptoms (read about Carlos in our cover story).

But people who had much milder cases of COVID-19 are also struggling with debilitating symptoms, weeks to months after their infections resolved. In fact, the majority of patients with persistent post-COVID-19 symptoms — sometimes referred to as “long-haulers” — were never even sick enough to require hospitalization.

Pulmonologists Denyse Lutchmansingh, MD, and Jennifer Possick, MD, started the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Program at YNHH’s Winchester Chest Clinic to help patients with persistent symptoms.

The physicians weren’t surprised to see patients with symptoms like profound shortness of breath or chest discomfort. “But we also realized this was much more than a pulmonary problem as patients
were describing additional issues like extreme fatigue, racing of the heart and memory problems,” Dr. Lutchmansingh

They reached out to different sub-specialists to partner with them because “we quickly saw that our patients needed much more than a pulmonologist,” says Dr. Lutchmansingh. “They needed a team.”

Treating baffling symptoms while lending a sympathetic ear

There is still much we don’t understand about the lingering effects of COVID-19. Why do patients with no evidence of an active infection have symptoms, months later? Why do they have seemingly unrelated issues like heart palpitations or memory impairment? And will they ever feel completely well?

“We’re still learning about COVID-19,” says Dr. Lutchmansingh. “We call it ‘treating while learning.’ More research is needed to better understand the cause of these symptoms and the best ways to treat them.”

The hope is that someday, when this pandemic is behind us, there will no longer be a need for the clinic. “We initially planned to follow these patients for up to one year after their initial infection. But now we don’t really know,” says Dr. Lutchmansingh. “We will be here as long as the patients need us.”

For Carlos and hundreds of other patients, the physicians at the Post-COVID-19 clinic are the only people who really understand what they’re going through. “Patients are afraid because they don’t understand what’s happening to them,” says Dr. Lutchmansingh. “They want someone to hear them and they are grateful that we listen, even if we don’t have all the answers yet.”