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COVID ‘long haulers’ may find answers at new local clinic

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) -- Some people who test positive for COVID-19 become what's known as long haulers.

That's when they still have symptoms at least four weeks after their diagnosis.

Doctors at a new Parkview clinic hope to help those patients.

"It's almost five months into it now, no smell, no taste, tired, no energy," said COVID long hauler Margy Sorgen.

She was diagnosed with the coronavirus November seventh, and is now classified as a COVID long hauler.

She says except for sometimes tasting the first bite of food, she hasn't enjoyed a holiday or regular meal since.

Her husband Scott says he does most of the cooking, and says it's been frustrating to watch Margy's symptoms persist.

"You spend a lot of your time, put time and effort into a meal, and then when you sit down and eat, and she's like, nope, I don't get any taste. And I'm over here going 'this is awesome!' And at that point you feel bad that this is tasting so awesome and yet she's not experiencing any of it," Scott Sorgen said.

"I ask him what the food tastes like and he tells me, and I just keep eating it," Margy said.

Parkview's new post-COVID clinic is designed to treat and study "long haulers" who don't have any medical answers for their condition.

Margy would likely qualify for Parkview's new post-COVID clinic, that's designed to treat and study long haulers like her who don't have any medical answers for their condition.

"It just feels that we have to be able to do better in terms of taking care of a patient one at a time," said Parkview neurologist Dr. Fen-Lei Chang.

Dr. Chang will head the clinic's multi-disciplinary team that includes specialists like cardiologists, neuropsychologists, pulmonologists, dieticians, and others to help treat long haulers' symptoms like ringing in the ears, difficulty breathing, inflammation of the immune system, and brain fog.

They'll also look for common elements among the patients and use that research to try to develop a treatment.

"We do not have any evidence-based treatment for this condition. But I think there are ways to help improve how to deal with those symptoms, need to look into what's the contribution from anxiety and stress," he said.

Margy says she feels guilty getting upset about her lingering symptoms after so many people have been hospitalized or died from COVID-19.

"I've kind of learned to live with it. I'm like if this is all I get, I'm okay with that. I'm alive and I'm breathing. Yeah, if I can't taste or smell for the rest of my life, so be it. I'm alive," she said.

Billing at the clinic will be routine, so check your insurance.

Post-COVID clinic patients must be referred by a Parkview provider to a neurology specialist for the initial consult, and then any other specialists as needed.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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