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Post-acute-COVID Syndrome Solution

IT’S BEEN OVER TWO YEARS since the first COVID-19 patient was diagnosed in the United States.

Published in the October 2022 Issue Published online: Oct 12, 2022 East Idaho Health
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BY EASTERN IDAHO REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER STAFF



IT’S BEEN OVER TWO YEARS since the first COVID-19 patient was diagnosed in the United States. Most Idahoans who caught the virus (approximately 445,300 cases) have recovered and resumed their lives. However, thousands of COVID “long haulers” in Idaho continue to battle the ongoing effects of their infection.

Difficulty breathing, extreme fatigue, muscle aches, racing heartrate, brain fog, and chronic cough are just a few of the many symptoms attributed to “long COVID” or post-acute-COVID syndrome. Post-acute COVID severity and symptoms can vary widely from patient to patient, which may complicate the diagnosis process. On top of that, long COVID can affect those who were hospitalized with the disease, but also those whose infections were mild. While the initial infection may seem more like a cold or the flu, long COVID symptoms can still hit weeks or months afterward. Sometimes a patient’s symptoms are either misdiagnosed or not taken seriously. As Dr. Kenneth Krell explains, long haulers “often feel like there is nowhere for them to turn for help, or they’ve been told that their symptoms are all in their head. That’s just not true. Long COVID affects cognitive function, cardiopulmonary function, the nervous system… The effects are very real.”

Anyone who believes they are experiencing the effects of long COVID can now make an appointment for an evaluation, no referral needed. The diagnostic process begins with a questionnaire, sent out prior to the patient’s first appointment. During the initial two-hour evaluation, a battery of tests may be given and the questionnaire is reviewed. Results are used to form a personalized, comprehensive treatment plan, which could include referrals for further testing, imaging, or specialized care from cardiologists, neurologists, psychologists, or physical therapists. “We can do some things to hasten that recovery with graded physical therapy, with cognitive training, sometimes with specific drugs and with help from a social system,” Dr. Krell explained.

All patients’ care is supervised by an experienced physician. Initially that will be Dr. Krell, who has over 20 years of experience as a critical care specialist and is a veteran of EIRMC’s COVID ICU. Internal Medicine residents and nurse practitioners also participate in testing and tracking of each patient, carefully monitoring their progress toward wellness. And, emphasizes Dr. Krell, “We want to reassure primary care providers that they will be kept in the loop about their patients’ care.” East Falls Internal Medicine is an Internal Medicine Clinic operated by Drs. Krell, John Grider, and Sean Huggins. They are assisted by Internal Medicine residents who are in their final years of training. At the COVID-19 clinic, residents play a critical role in helping long COVID patients. They participate in research studies of long-COVID treatments, giving clinic patients the opportunity to not only get help for themselves but to also help future patients by participating in treatment studies. This is more important than ever now that COVID-19 and its many variants are here to stay.

The East Falls Internal Medicine COVID-19 Clinic meets both the physical and mental health needs of patients, and it provides long-haulers with another very important thing: hope.

“This is not a hopeless situation. This is not a situation where we can’t do anything. Supporting post-acute COVID patients through their journey is important and helpful. We offer treatments and interventions that can improve their quality of life,” says Dr. Krell. “We offer them hope — hope that their quality of life can improve.”

And that may be the best medicine of all.

For an appointment at East Falls Internal Medicine, call (208) 535-4000.

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