Lauren, Age 18, New York
Before COVID-19, I was a healthy rugby player. I developed COVID-19 in March 2020. My mom is a pediatrician. She got sick from a patient and brought COVID home, which infected our whole family. I had a mild illness with an infected salivary gland, low-grade fever, and fatigue. Overall, I had very mild symptoms and felt better after a few days and thought that was that.
A few weeks later, it was hard to get a full breath, my heart rate at rest was high, 90-110 beats per minute, and I felt winded just walking around the house. I had to nap often, had a hard time focusing, and had trouble eating. I was hungry, but wouldn’t feel well if I ate, so I lost 20 pounds. I fell into an intense depressive episode. I felt horrible and had no explanation for why.
After six months, when I turned 18, I was seen at the Mt. Sinai Hospital Post COVID Clinic. They diagnosed me with dysautonomia. They suggested very slow, gradual walking. 10-20 minutes per day, increasing by 10 min each week. I didn’t miss a day and followed that plan for four weeks. It seemed to help some, but it worsened my fatigue.
For a few months, I was treated with a low-dose beta-blocker. That helped. What also seemed to help was drinking a lot of water and taking vitamins every day. After a few months, still exercising, I started feeling better, and I stopped taking the beta-blocker. My heart rate was normal again completely unassisted. It took about 14 months.
It’s important for people to know Long COVID can be so life-affecting. It felt good to have my symptoms validated by a doctor at the clinic. For the first six months I was told by doctors this was anxiety and I should meditate or I should try wind sprints to fix this. I found slow and steady was a better way to deal with my dysautonomia.