The point here is, if we thought that merely staying indoors was bad for childhood obesity statistics, it looks like the country needs to prepare for the painful revelation that “We ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.” Just wait until all the kids who had COVID-19 and ostensibly got over it begin to show up with long COVID or MISC-C or some other long-term damage that hasn’t even been identified yet. On the darkest days, it is all too easy to foresee an entire generation so debilitated they’re unable to do anything but creep around indoors, remaining inactive and putting on weight.
A lot of people never wanted to believe in long COVID, and many still do not, but the evidence has piled up relentlessly. In yesterday’s post, we referenced an article by Meghan O’Rourke, tracing the history of awareness as it grew among individual doctors and researchers.
When Mount Sinai hospital opened up its Center for Post-COVID Care, endocrinologist Zijian Chen was chosen to be the medical director. He studied the results of a survey of around 1,800 patients who were “more than a month past their initial infection but still experiencing symptoms.” In other words, according to the established criteria, they were officially better. But somehow, their bodies had not received the memo.
One mystifying aspect was, in the acute stage, most of those lingering cases had not been particularly serious. Many of the respondents had not even been hospitalized. They tended to be on the young side, and their demographic had not been rife with pre-existing conditions. They had expected the illness to be an unpleasant but brief chapter of life, and instead it was showing a tendency to become their new normal. Here they were, multitudes of patients who still experienced heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, brain fog, and mainly a debilitating and seemingly intractable fatigue.
Where is it?
Because different body systems were affected, Dr. Chen got together a multi-disciplinary group of specialists to figure out what was going on. But rather than remaining consistent, the patients’ symptoms were all over the shop, sending them from one type of specialist to another. Members of the team ordered reams of lab tests, whose results left them none the wiser.
One thing going on with the supposedly recovered patients was their breathing not normalized. O’Rourke wrote,
Evidence began to accrue that long-COVID patients were breathing shallowly through their mouths and into their upper chest. By contrast, a proper breath happens in the nose and goes deep into the diaphragm; it stimulates the vagus nerve along the way, helping regulate heart rate and the nervous system.
A company was brought on board that “introduced a science-based breathwork program” or, some might say, rebranded a centuries-old system called yoga. O’Rourke’s article points out several important aspects of the long COVID problem. While the needed care is not generally high-tech, it is “time-consuming and attention-intensive.” Clinicians are called upon to give attention to a great deal of nuance and ambiguity, two qualities that modern medicine is not particularly well equipped to deal with.
Today’s doctors are used to a quick, or at least definitive, answer. Find the right medication, or perform the appropriate surgery, and voilà! — problem solved. Few medical professionals are used to dealing with conditions that drag on, with the shapeshifting characteristics of a science fiction movie monster. After interviewing many of the hospital’s specialized team, O’Rourke noted that while most of Mount Sinai’s post-acute COVID patients were headed toward recovery, none of them could report feeling like they did before COVID-19 entered their lives.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Unlocking the Mysteries of Long COVID,” TheAtlantic.com, 03/08/21
Image by muffinn (modified)/CC BY 2.0