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New patients have 6-month wait for COVID-19 long-haulers clinic in Lakeland

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Posted at 5:40 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 17:40:03-04

LAKELAND, Fla.  — Some people who have had COVID-19 are still dealing with severe lingering side effects months after.

The Post-COVID Clinic in Polk County is one of the only ones in the state treating long-haulers, but new patients have to wait until next year.

“When I got out of the hospital the first week or two of my life were perhaps the hardest week I ever lived,” said Charles Harkala.

Before getting COVID-19 last November, Harkala said he was in the best shape of his life. Though he beat the virus, it was still a long and bumpy road to recovery.

“Foggy mind is the real deal and didn’t have anyone to explain that in detail at first. So, I was missing a segment of who I was for a couple of weeks. That was very, very difficult to live with,” Harkala said.

Harkala has fully recovered after being treated at the Post-COVID Clinic located at the Watson Clinic in Lakeland. The clinic was the first of its kind in the state when it opened last year.

Dr. Kathleen Haggerty, who runs the clinic, said brain fog, shortness of breath and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms long-haulers experience.

“It’s a different kind of fatigue. It’s the kind of the tired that you would get if you just ran the Boston Marathon and threw yourself over the finish line,” Haggerty explained.

Since September, she’s seen 250 patients suffering from severe lingering COVID-19 side effects but being the only long-hauler clinic in Central Florida, her patients are having to wait six months for an appointment.

“Takes a really long time to sort out what’s been going on with people. They've had a long road and they’ve suffered a lot and they need to tell you about it and you need to go through their old information,” Haggerty said.

Harkala is thankful he’s been discharged from the Post-COVID Clinic.

“COVID’s a big bad dog. I'm glad there are people like Dr. Haggerty that have devoted their lives to help people that have complications from COVID,” he said.