COVID-19 survivor, doctors warn of possible long-term health impacts of virus

Posted at 6:39 PM, Oct 09, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — If you’re diagnosed with COVID-19, could you end up with long-lasting health issues down the road? Medical experts are working to learn more about the impacts of COVID-19 on patients as the pandemic marches on.

“This beast, I call it a beast because it’s not even worthy of me calling it a virus,” said Robert Marrero.

In March, Robert Marrero starting feeling sick and eventually tested positive for COVID-19. The former New York corrections officer, 9/11 first responder, and cancer survivor was in the hospital for 36 days and on a ventilator for 19 days. ABC Action News shared his story when he got out of the hospital in May.

Months later, Marrero says he has lingering effects, like trembling, memory issues, fatigue and what he calls debilitating pain at times.

“One of the biggest questions I have [is] am I going to stay like this?” said Marrero.

“We don’t have a full road map to look at and say here’s what we’ll expect now and here’s what we’re going to expect in a year,” said USF Health’s Dr. Jason Wilson.

Wilson says they’ve had patients who still need oxygen and have chest pain. The CDC says one of the health effects it’s closely watching and trying to understand relates to COVID-19 and the heart. It says some types of heart damage may explain some often reported long-term symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pain.

The Mayo Clinic shared that COVID-19 may affect the heart, lungs, and brain, cause mood issues and fatigue and even help form blood clots. Dr. Wilson says people could have blood clots in the arteries, which could show up as issues like strokes.

“We’re trying to figure out is this just natural recovery for sicker patients?” said Dr. Wilson. “Is it going to take some time, or is there something special about this virus that causes these long-term effects on the lungs, the heart, the breathing to take a long time to recover?”

The CDC says much is unknown on how COVID-19 will affect people over time. Until that becomes clear, Marrero wants people to take the illness seriously so they don’t face a long road to recovery, too.

“It’s real. It’s real as the air that you breathe in and the carbon monoxide you push out,” said Marrero.