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Montreal long COVID research clinic marks 1-year anniversary, patients demand more care

Click to play video: 'Long COVID sufferers calling on government to hold the line and maintain restrictions' Long COVID sufferers calling on government to hold the line and maintain restrictions
WATCH: While many are celebrating the lifting of more COVID-19 restrictions, people dealing with what’s known as long COVID are left shaking their heads. Meanwhile, a Montreal research clinic is trying to crack the mystery of why some people still have symptoms two years later. And though there is still a lot to learn, notable progress is being made. Dan Spector reports – Feb 15, 2022

As many celebrate the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, there is one group left shaking its head: people dealing with long COVID.

A Montreal research clinic is celebrating a year of trying to crack the mystery of why some people still have symptoms up to two years later.

There is still a lot to learn, but progress is being made.

“After one year, I’d say that I don’t wish that on my worst enemy,” said long COVID patient Dr. Anne Bhereur.

Bhereur was full of energy before she caught COVID while caring for patients in a seniors home in December 2020.

Now more than a year later, she still struggles to think, speak, and climb stairs.

“My mother in law is more than 80 years old. She’s much faster than me, and (I) need to stop on the stairs to catch my breath,” she said.

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Read more: ‘We’re not prepared’ — What it takes to recover from long COVID

Carrie Anna McGinn got the virus around the same time, and is also still dealing with symptoms including extreme fatigue, chest pain and shortness of breath.

“I can’t think properly. I can’t be the active mom that I want to be. I can’t take my child to the park anymore. I need to hire a babysitter to take my four-year-old to the park,” McGinn said.

They’re just two of thousands struggling with the mystery that is long COVID.

At the Montreal Clinical Research Institute, Dr. Emilia Liana Falcone and her team are working to understand what makes it happen.

“There seems to be certain profile. It’s not the same symptoms for everyone,” said Falcone.

She and her team have now been researching long COVID for a full year, recently marking their first anniversary.

Patients come by every few months, go through tests, and information comes in little by little. Symptoms can last from just an extra month or two to two years.

“Patients who are hospitalized certainly have a higher chance of getting long COVID, especially if they were in the ICU,” said Falcone.

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Read more: Vaccination may lower risk of ‘long COVID’ studies say — but experts aren’t so sure

For reasons that remain unknown, she says women seem to be more susceptible.

Long-term symptoms can include shortness of breath, brain fog, or just not being able to taste and smell.

McGinn and Bhereur have both participated in Falcone’s research project, and both praised the work her team is doing.

They say the waiting list is long, however, and they worry about the thousands of long COVID patients who are suffering alone, not able to participate.

The patients say they need help navigating the disease on a daily basis.

“It’s not the adopted high quality clinical care that tens of thousands of people with long COVID need,” said McGinn, calling on the government to make more medical help available.

Quebec’s health ministry told Global News more research needs to be done before the government presents treatment options.

“The Ministry of Health and Social Services is interested in post-COVID symptoms and is sensitive to the people affected,” said ministry spokesperson Marie-Louise Harvey.

“It is important to develop knowledge in order to learn more about the therapeutic approaches to be preferred.”

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Falcone said she believes more treatment options are on the way for people dealing with long COVID. She says the true prevalence of long COVID is unknown, but it may hit between 10 and 30 per cent of people who catch the virus.

She hopes by learning and spreading awareness, the experience of those dealing with long COVID will improve.

 

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