PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Chelsea Alionar is 37 years old, lives in Keizer and says she was perfectly healthy until March. Then she tested positive for COVID-19 in April, has had more than 80 doctor appointments since, and she is still so sick, she struggles to work, can hardly exercise, and sometimes can’t even stay awake all day.
"Hiking, paddle boarding, anything that requires my heart rate to increase is off the table," Alionar said. "I certainly cannot work at full capacity, my brain fog is really debilitating."
She has fatigue, joint pain, hearing loss, many other symptoms that come and go, and perhaps worst of all, chest pain.
"It wakes me up in the night, it plagues me throughout every day," Alionar said.
She said her symptoms started with what she thought was a migraine back in March, but things only got worse from there, and she says she finally qualified for a COVID-19 test in April that came back positive.
More than 80 doctor appointments, including hospital visits, later, she’s still sick.
"Just everything is a battle, the mental health piece, the toll that it takes on us, the healthcare piece, the fact that it's solitary, the fact that everything is unknown, the fact that we still have to try to this day to convince people to just wear a mask, to stay home, to socially distance," Alionar said.
What also bothers her is the lack of information, resources, support, and even acknowledgment of those who’ve become known as COVID “Long-Haulers.”
"My doctors feel that I am not sick," Alionar said. "I really feel like whether it takes three years, five years, whatever it is, I think that the medical community is going to come back and I think they’re going to apologize to long-haulers."
Oregon Health Authority Dr. Ann Thomas said the state doesn’t have data on long-term effects of COVID-19.
She said so much research has gone into the initial fight against the virus and figuring out immediate life-saving information, plus a lot of time and logistics go into a study like that including following up with people every few months.
This virus is still relatively new; she said that kind of study could be done at this point, but is likely beyond the state health department’s scope.
"I think it's important that it gets done because we’re all wondering just how big, what are the long-term problems that we’re going to see from this pandemic," she said.
OHA does have some recovery data.
Health officials checked in on more than 1,800 of some of the state’s first COVID-19 patients. Nearly 90 percent of them are considered recovered, less than 1% have not yet recovered, and the state doesn’t have data for about 10% of them.
They count recovery as three days after initial symptoms go away.
For the most part, those who had symptoms but weren’t hospitalized took about 20 days to recover, and those who were hospitalized took about 26 days.
Alionar said she hopes sharing her story helps get the word out that there are other people in her situation months after their diagnosis.
"I've never been so pale in my entire life, I've never had these dark circles like this before," she said. "We need to be tracked, long-haulers need to be tracked because we are not recovered."
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