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'I Could Not Talk': COVID Long Hauler Tells Her Story As New Study At Rush Hopes To Solve Some Mysteries

CHICAGO (CBS) --Some survivors of COVID-19 are struggling to recover, even months after they test positive.

The journey filled with highs and lows for one Chicago woman who's now re-learning to walk. She shared her frustrations with CBS 2's Jim Williams.

Sherry McFarland is in a wheelchair. She can't move her hands, but she's actually doing better now.

"I could not talk," McFarland said. "I couldn't talk at all. They had to put a trach in my throat."

When she was in the hospital for months earlier this year. At times in a coma. After getting sick in January.

"Doctor said she'll live, but it's going to take her about a year for her to heal."

McFarland, the aunt of one of our CBS 2's colleagues, has Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the nervous system. McFarland said doctors told her the ailment is COVID-related.

The long term effects of COVID are at the heart of a new study conducted at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center. It's a big study: 1,500 patients participating.

Dr. Michael Gottlieb is one of the study's leaders who is trying to answer key questions:

"What is the impact on COVID, specifically? We understand long COVID exists but we don't know for how long," said Gottlieb. "Does it stay in the steady course? Does it get worse? Does it go away?"

Dr. Gottlieb said this study is unique in that it relies on more than medical records of patients, but close observation.

"We're trying to understand what are people actually experiencing," Gottlieb said. "What is the day-to-day experience with COVID? The fatigue, the sleep changes. What is the actual impact on you as a participant?"

Sherry McFarland, who's not in the study, praises her sister and husband for their daily caregiving.

"I have a wonderful family and support system. My husband has been there. Oh my God. My husband's great," she said.

"Sometimes it seems a little bit overwhelming, but so far it's what I signed up for," said her husband Anthony. "I'm there for the good times and for the bad."

The McFarland family, eager to see answers from the Rush study and hoping for better days.

"I want to be able to be independent like I was," said Sherry McFarland.

Participants in the study can earn up to $100. If you or someone you know would like to participate in the Rush University Medical Center study, click here or  go to COVID

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