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Wheaton woman opens up about being a COVID long hauler: 'Pit of physical and emotional despair'

Wheaton woman opens up about being a COVID long hauler
Wheaton woman opens up about being a COVID long hauler 02:12

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Have you heard of COVID long haulers?

These are people whose COVID symptoms last more than a year after their initial infection.

CBS 2's Jermont Terry shows us, a Wheaton woman opens up about the lasting impact, as Northwestern Medicine reveals the finding of its study. 

Staying physically active through rowing is how Emily Caffee maintained her health. Yet during a rowing competition back in March of 2020, Emily's adrenaline quickly went downhill.

"The descent into what I came to know as the pit of physical and emotional despair."

She contracted COVID and would experience a 15-month long journey of agonizing symptoms.

"I went from being a very active person to barely being able to stand for five minutes without getting so acutely dizzy. Having zero standing tolerance."

Emily soon learned she was part of a group infected with the virus considered COVID long haulers. The annoying pain, fatigue and neurological side affects stick around well after the virus leaves the body.

"I'd say I'm 90 to 95% better, but there are still definitely some symptoms that linger," Caffee said.

More than 1,400 long-haulers have been treated at Northwestern Hospital. Researchers and doctors did an extensive study and determined. Most continued to:

*Experience neurologic symptoms, fatigue, and compromised quality of life 11-18 months after disease onset that continued for an average of 15 months. 

And when comes to vaccination status...

"There was a neutral affect. It didn't cure long COVID or make long COVID worse so we continue to encourage people to get vaccinated and boosted," said Dr. Igor Koralnik, Chief of neuro-infectious diseases at Northwestern Medicine.

While Emily has gradually gotten back to rowing, she's no where near competing again, but believes seeking  medical attention and  knowing the symptoms weren't all in her mind helped her on her road to recovery.

"I think the most frustrated part of recovering from long COVID was how much of a roller coaster it was. Part of my reason of showing up today was offering that hope," she said.

Doctors said anyone not getting the clarification, after experiencing long COVID, can get a tele-visits consultation with any doctor until you're satisfied with a diagnosis. 

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