"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

For parents affected by long-COVID disease, on a regular basis life remains to be a struggle

May 8, 2023 – Brooke Keaton, 42, of Charlotte, NC, has a Plan B for the bad days. She calls them “her long COVID days,” and when she has one, her husband knows she's too drained to play with their two daughters, ages 12 and 5.

“Instead of going to the park, we have a movie night where we make popcorn and snacks and put on our pajamas. I try to make it fun even though I can't do a lot of the things I used to do,” Keaton said.

Keaton has needed to make many adjustments in her life since being diagnosed with acute COVID-19 in December 2020. She recovered from a severe bout of illness, but 8 weeks later she began experiencing symptoms comparable to shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Even the smallest tasks, like picking up her toddler, drained her out.

Keaton is certainly one of tens of millions of fogeys combating Long COVID. Overall 11% of Americans who've been infected with COVID have symptoms of Long COVID, in keeping with the CDC. A recent study published within the journal Nature The study found that individuals over 30 are probably to develop Long COVID. This age group can also be probably to be in the midst of parental leave.

Millions of Americans at the moment are trying their best to balance raising children with their chronic illness.

Keaton has trouble taking her daughters to the park to play because she is exhausted by then. She even recently bought an inflatable paddling pool for the garden for those hot summer days when she is simply too drained to take her daughters to the pool.

Since her doctor diagnosed her with Long COVID in September 2021, Keaton has lost her job at a preschool and her medical health insurance. Now that she has expensive COBRA insurance, she spends most of her day seeing various specialists in hopes of finding relief from her long list of symptoms.

“While much of the world has left the pandemic behind and is living normal lives, for people with Long COVID, every day is still a struggle,” said Upinder SinghMD, Division Chief of Infectious Diseases at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

For Holly Hungerford-Kresser, 47, of Arlington, Texas, brain fog is one of the problematic facets of long Covid. She tears up when she talks concerning the impact it has had on her each day life as a mother.

She relies on friends to drive her two teenage boys, ages 11 and 15, to highschool because she sometimes forgets the way to drive.associate The professor of literacy studies on the University of Texas at Arlington is now working remotely since the severe brain fog attributable to Long Covid makes driving confusing and sometimes dangerous.

“In a state like Texas, not being able to drive most of the time is a big problem,” she said.

Brain fog is a typical grievance amongst patients. According to an article published in JAMANearly half of long-COVID patients complain of brain fog or memory loss, making it difficult for fogeys to assist with homework, carpool, and even cook dinner.

Although there isn't a treatment for the disease, says Dr. Kristin Englund, founder and director of the Cleveland Clinic's Post-COVID reCOVer Clinic said patients with cognitive decline are sometimes referred to speech therapists who focus on working with stroke patients. Patients with brain fog may need memory training.

“They are often our first line of therapy to help these patients develop tools to cope with memory deficits,” Englund said.

Other treatments, comparable to using a mix of the blood pressure drug guanfacine and N-acetylcysteine ​​(NAC), an antioxidant utilized in traumatic brain injury, have also shown promise in some patients.Research. But for a lot of patients, treatment is difficult to search out. Brain fog is one of the obscure symptoms of Long COVID.

Nevertheless, severe fatigue is probably the most common grievance of 90% of Englund's patients.

For John Bolecek, a 40-year-old father of two boys, ages 4 and seven, it's Long Covid fatigue that's causing him probably the most difficulty after he contracted a light case of the virus in January 2022 and developed Long COVID just a few weeks later.

Bolecek used to cycle long distances and usually run half marathons, but today the Richmond, VA, resident said his condition forced him to provide up his job as a pedestrian planner for the Virginia He is certified by the Ministry of Transport and might only walk about 2,000 steps a day before he's struck by a condition so severe that it almost knocks him over.

“I'm stuck on the couch almost all the time,” he said.

The discomfort mimics the symptoms of mYalgic encephalomyelitis/Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Researchers will not be entirely sure why Long COVID causes this. But David PutrinoPhD, who directs the Long COVID Clinic at Mount Sinai in New York City, said several aspects are likely at play.

In some cases, it's a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system – an element of the nervous system that controls involuntary functions comparable to heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory and Digestion — this may be driving fatigue.

Putrino said in other cases, it could possibly be a dysfunction of mitochondria (the energy-producing a part of cells) or microclot formation attributable to COVID that affects oxygen circulation within the body.

Depending on the cause, patients can try different treatments, comparable to autonomic rehabilitation, vagus nerve stimulation (using an electrical device to stimulate the vagus nerve), or dietary supplements to treat microclot formation. Autonomic rehabilitation is a really specific type of physical therapy that re-teach the autonomic nervous system the way to use energy appropriately. It has been proven in just a few small Studies to have an effect on individuals with long COVID fatigue.

His patients also learn to make use of “pacing,” or slowing down their activity levels to avoid the periods of utmost fatigue that plague so many individuals in his clinic. It's a method that has long been used for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.

“While we have had good success in reducing fatigue in our patients, we are not yet able to completely eliminate the symptoms,” he said.

The other most important symptom many parents face is, not surprisingly, depression. Putrino said this is probably going not attributable to the virus itself altering brain chemistry. More likely, a sudden and completely unfinished transition to a lifetime of chronic disability is causing widespread depression and anxiety. Parents combating mental health issues will help manage their other symptoms and see a therapist to assist them understand what happened.

“It's bad enough when you're just taking care of yourself, but when you're responsible for another little life and struggling with an illness that no one seems to know how to treat and that many still don't believe is real, it can cause severe depression,” Putrino said.

Although doctors and researchers are finding some treatments that appear to work, the dearth of standardized treatment guidelines makes it difficult, especially for fogeys with Long COVID and the doctors who look after them. In some ways, progress has been slow, said Grace McComsey, MDwho's leading the Long COVID RECOVER study at University Hospitals Health System in Cleveland. Doctors try to search out out what works for one patient through trial and error after which apply that knowledge to a different. And many patients are'I get no relief in any respect.

According to McComsey, while there's some hope that we may have the opportunity to forestall Long COVID in the long run, research is progressing at a snail's pace. We'“We’re ready to go, but it’s taking a long time to get everything going,” McComsey said.

She said that some attempts have shown that taking the diabetes drug metformin during the acute phase of COVID-19 can protect some patients from long COVID disease. Vaccination helps at least partially prevent this. Another study studied individuals with Long COVID and located that the antiviral Paxlovid administered throughout the acute phase of the disease appeared to forestall the disease.

But prevention doesn't help patients like Keaton, Hungerford-Kresser and Bolecek. They have been battling Long Covid for years and nothing seems to assist. It is all of the unknowns surrounding the disease which are giving them sleepless nights.

Will they ever have the opportunity to work again? What long-term impact will their chronic illness have on their children? Will there ever be a cure? These questions still have to be answered.