The COVID long-haul: Thunder Bay family struggles as symptoms keep returning

·3 min read

For one Thunder Bay family, dealing with COVID-19 has been a long, drawn-out experience with symptoms fading and returning over the course of months.

But Lisa Audet and her family aren't alone.

The family started showing symptoms of the virus in February, after returning from a trip to Las Vegas.

Two days after getting back to Thunder Bay, all four members of Audet's immediate family began showing mild cold-like symptoms.

"We kind of thought maybe it could be COVID-related," Audet said. "At that point, I did contact the Thunder Bay District Health Unit."

However, the family wasn't tested as they didn't have a fever; they were instructed to self-monitor.

Two weeks later, however, things took a turn, with Audet developing flu-like symptoms, and feeling "a lot worse."

"It basically felt like the worst flu I've ever had in my life," she said. "My girls continued to just have really mild symptoms, and my husband barely had anything at all."

Audet contacted the health unit again, and this time she was tested.

"Unfortunately, it was on day 21," she said. "Now we know that if you're tested ... more than a week following the onset of symptoms, it's really likely to be negative."

"My test was negative at that point."

Hit 'like a ton of bricks'

Audet continued to monitor her symptoms, which eventually improved.

"Then, around about the end of April, I got hit, basically, like a ton of bricks," she said. "That kind of put me back in bed basically for about three weeks."

"This was extreme fatigue," Audet said, adding she had headaches, as well.

Again Audet started feeling better, and again things took a turn; this time, Audet experienced tingling and numbness.

Meanwhile, the tip of Audet's 14-year-old daughter's tongue, and parts of her face, became numb and tingly for a few days, as well.

"Then again we started to get better," Audet said. "And then, at the end of May, I got hit with another crash, which landed me back in bed again, and everything kind of started over."

"Coming out of that one actually took quite a long time," she said. "It was really a number of weeks before I could start to move around the house more."

Audet said she's seen steady improvements since, save for a "mini crash" last week, which took about a day to recover from.

Cyclical nature

Her 12-year-old daughter, who had mild symptoms early on, experienced headaches and extreme fatigue for about three weeks in June, but has improved.

"Our 14-year-old is still going through the cycles of fatigue, chest pressure, the tingling, and she also has nausea," Audet said.

Audet has had phone consultations with doctors, who told her the symptoms sound "consistent with COVID, because of the cyclical, kind of relapse nature, which is what they're seeing."

Audet did visit the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre in April, where she was tested again. That test, as well, came back negative.

The experience has led Audet to find a COVID-19 "long-haulers" group on Facebook.

"It was really validating and encouraging to find that there's thousands of people out there that are also having these symptoms, and it's not just something that we're experiencing," she said. "It's very strange, but I have a hope that we actually will recover."