Covid ‘Long-Haulers’ Represent the Future of Pre-Existing Conditions (Video)

They’re called “long-haulers“.

They’re victims of Covid-19 in a separate category from the 80% who experience mild symptoms and those complaining of severe symptoms for three to six weeks.

They’re a combination of the two, battling lasting deleterious effects of the nascent scourge that has to date infected over eight million Americans and killed over 219,000.

Family medicine doctor Christopher Babiuch explained:

“We’re now seeing a percentage of patients whose symptoms seem to be lasting a while. This is challenging because everyone’s needs are so unique. We’re finding that collaborating as a team between different specialists helps to manage and support these patients, but there’s a lot that we just don’t know yet.”

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) recently released a report indicating patients with “long Covid” may experience four distinct simultaneous syndromes.

The report’s lead author, Dr. Elaine Maxwell, said:

“We believe that the term long Covid is being used as a catch-all for more than one syndrome, possibly up to four, and that the lack of distinction between these syndromes may explain the challenges people are having in being believed and accessing services.”

NIHR identified four patient subsets.

First are those recovering from intensive care too weak to sit, lift their arms, speak, or swallow, whose conditions may be contributing to depression and post-traumatic stress.

Then there are those with aching muscles, mental fog, and fatigue not unlike that those with chronic fatigue syndrome experience.

Then there’s organ damage.

Breathlessness, persistent coughing, and racing pulse could be symptoms of lingering lung or heart damage.

recent study discovered that six weeks after leaving the hospital about half of Covid patients still experienced difficulty breathing. At 12 weeks, it was 39%.

About a third of patients–even those with mild infections–sustained heart damage.

MRI scans of 100 patients found abnormal structural heart alterations, a separate study concluded.

Finally, there are patients with fluctuating symptoms that travel throughout the body.

The NIHR report documents patients’ symptoms manifesting in one physiological system, then waning before appearing in another system.

A “long COVID” support group member survey found 70% of “long-haulers” experienced symptom fluctuations; 89% experienced an intensity.

Dr. Danny Altmann, Imperial College London immunologist, stated these symptoms may indicate compromised immune systems.

According to The Guardian:

“Estimates have suggested that 10% of COVID patients experience symptoms lasting longer than three weeks, and around one in 50 will still be ill at three months. The NIHR report said lasting symptoms had been observed in all age groups, including children, but unpublished results from the COVID Symptom Study suggest that women and older people may be at greater risk.”

Covid has only been with us here in the United States for nine months, so there is still a great deal health experts don’t know about it.

But as these studies indicate, even though most who contract Covid seem to “recover,” their recovery may be fraught with long-term havoc to their hearts, brains, lungs, and other organs.

That means as the future of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; a.k.a. “Obamacare“) is headed again to the Supreme Court (possibly with Donald Trump’s new nominee Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to the bench), millions of Americans are developing pre-existing conditions the landmark healthcare legislation is intended to protect.

If Obamacare is struck down, health insurance companies will once again be able to legally discriminate against those who have had any condition the companies deem “pre-existing,” which now will include effects from Covid-19.

This could be the very impetus we need to force a Democratic Congress and a Joe Biden administration to implement a Medicare-for-All single-payer national healthcare system.

Or, if Trump gets re-elected and/or Democrats fail to win the majority in the Senate, millions of Americans will just have to accept malignancy and death as the outcome of the pre-existing condition of living in the United States of America.

Image credit: pursuit.unimelb.edu.au

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to Op-Ed News, Liberal Nation Rising, and Zoedune.