‘This is terrible’: What we know about the long-term impact of COVID-19

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INDIANAPOLIS — We are learning more about how COVID-19 impacts many patients long term.

It can go far beyond the initial symptoms of shortness of breath, fever and cough.

Diabetes took Willie Kendrick’s two legs but COVID-19 took so much more. He wasn’t the only one in his family who had it in May. He was the only one to survive, but he didn’t know it because he was on a ventilator battling the virus.

“To wake up knowing that your mom passed and your aunties and your brother? That’s a hard pill to swallow so, you know, I’m still dealing with that,” said Kendrick as a tear rolled down his face.

He’s now in rehab learning to walk again. Something he could do before the virus with his prosthetic legs. He has been through amputations and diabetes but he said COVID-19 is the worst illness he has ever experienced.

“I wouldn’t wish this on no one because this is terrible,” said Kendrick.

Some of the long-term impacts of COVID-19 include difficulty breathing, difficulty moving, heart issues, loss of taste, loss of smell and a weakened immune system.

“Other things that we are seeing are the vascular complications people are coming here having had blood clots in their extremities, blood clots in their lungs, and in some cases, rare, but in some cases we are seeing people who have had cerebral vascular clots so they are having strokes,” explained Dr. Eric Aitken, the medical director at Community North Rehabilitation Hospital.

Kendrick had a stroke as a result of the coronavirus.

“Partially my left side is paralyzed,” he said.

“It’s not as simple as ‘Oh, the death rate is going down,’ it’s the long-term potential effects of this virus that still exist for many people who are getting sick,” said Aitken.

Kendrick agreed to this interview because he wanted people to listen and do what they can to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Please, take this for real, this is serious,” he urged.

Though Kendrick has lost a lot, he’s made major progress. Since the virus is so new, doctors can’t predict how long prolonged symptoms will last.

“What we don’t know is how much of that will heal,” explained Aitken.

Kendrick is confident he will walk out of this rehab center. He has a good reason to keep fighting.

“Be there for my kids so, that’s my motivation.”

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