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Brigham And Women's Hospital Creates Program To Help Long COVID Patients

BOSTON (CBS) -- Millions of patients who have had COVID-19 -- many with only mild illness -- still have symptoms months later. One local hospital has established a program dedicated to helping these patients heal.

In March of 2020, Phil Baczewski developed fever, a cough, and trouble breathing. When the 47-year-old father of four went to the hospital, the doctor didn't mince words.

"He said you're really sick and if we don't put you on life support you're going to die," Phil recalled.

He had COVID-19, was in pulmonary failure, and was given a 10% chance to live. He spent 28 days in the hospital, 16 of them in a coma.

"I couldn't walk," he explained. "My body was really weak still from being in a coma. From when I woke up to the day I left, it was like it was a struggle to even just use my hands to feed myself."

Over a year later, Phil still suffers from nerve pain, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, and brain fog.

"It's another health crisis, it's another pandemic, and it threatens the health of a generation," said Dr. Bruce Levy, Chief of Pulmonary Critical Care at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Up to 30% of patients with COVID, many with only mild illness, have at least one symptom that persists for three to six months or more, a condition commonly referred to as long COVID.

"Long COVID involves multiple parts of the body, multiple symptoms," explained Dr. Levy. "And so going to any one doctor is a real challenge to comprehensively evaluate this."

So a few months ago, Brigham and Women's Hospital established a COVID Recovery Center where patients have their long COVID symptoms addressed, all in one place.

"When a patient comes to see us, they get an itinerary, that day, for any doctors or other healthcare providers they'll be seeing. They will get a testing itinerary and their whole day will be scheduled for them so it'll be a well-coordinated visit," said Dr. Levy.

Phil started seeing Dr. Levy and other specialists at the Recovery Center a few months ago. He said it's been an incredible experience.

"Phil is a good example of somebody who's getting better but slowly, and he is doing a great job of recovering," said Dr. Levy. "But he's had a long road."

"When I looked at my kids and know what they went through," Phils said, as his eyes well with tears. "Knowing that my wife would literally just drive to the hospital and sit outside the window and just pray. My mom and dad, praying for me. My mom thinking I was going to die and not being able to touch me."

Even though Phil is still not fully recovered, and not sure he ever will be, he said he's eternally grateful to be alive.

The Brigham is coordinating their care and research with other hospitals in the Boston area, so if you're suffering from long COVID symptoms, you can search for a program within your own health system. To find out more, go to their website.

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