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COVID-19 patients face a long, uncertain road to recovery

covid long haulers
Posted at 12:14 PM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 14:14:03-05

Ashley Varol became sick with COVID-19 long before any of her doctors even knew how to recognize the symptoms. But nearly a year after contracting the virus, this 37-year-old college professor is still dealing with side effects.

Varol teaches exercise science at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. This mother of three young children is used to being incredibly active and athletic. COVID-19, though, has left her with unexplainable large masses that suddenly appear on her body. The lumps show up randomly and typically are gone after a few hours, but these lingering side effects have made moving on from the virus difficult.

"I tend to do a lot of work in the evenings and there will be times where I'll have a huge mass on my forearm to the point where I can't type on my computer," Varol said via an interview on Zoom.

Doctors can't figure out what's wrong but say the lumps are appearing as part of a complication from COVID-19. Varol is part of a growing roster of Americans who've been deemed, "long haulers."

"I just want to feel like I'm in control of my health again," she lamented.

There are countless other Americans like Varol who have had life-altering side effects from the virus. Shawn Stephens is a 53-year-old man from Indiana who is also dealing with lingering health issue because of COVID-19.

Stephens never had high blood pressure before getting the virus. Now, his blood pressure is so high, he has to take medication every day to prevent a possible heart attack.

"I get frustrated at people that downplay,” he said. “I get just as frustrated at people who are overplaying. I just wish people would do what we’re supposed to do.”

During any other year, Stephens would typically be training for Spartan races right now. Instead, he's dealing with short-term memory loss.

"I literally will forget what I’m doing all day long. It’s constant," he added.

Their lingering symptoms aside, both Varol and Stephens are grateful to be doing OK and are hoping to be doing much better as the year unfolds.

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