Regina long-hauler urges public to take COVID-19 variants seriously

·3 min read
Regina long-hauler urges public to take COVID-19 variants seriously
Sandi Urban is concerned she could get the novel coronavirus again, despite still living with symptoms from her previous infection.   (Sandi Urban - image credit)
Sandi Urban is concerned she could get the novel coronavirus again, despite still living with symptoms from her previous infection. (Sandi Urban - image credit)

Vaccines offer hope for the pandemic's end, but for many COVID-19 long-haulers, there is no end in sight.

"Every month a new symptom will pop up," said LeAnne Thompson-Hill, a Sasktoon resident who tested positive for the novel coronavirus on March 11 of 2020.

In the last year, she's experienced fainting, confusion, COVID toes and heart palpitations.

Thompson-Hill said it feels like the virus continues to travel across her body, attacking her legs, heart and brain as it passes by.

"I woke up one morning, and my husband came out and I said, 'Who the hell is he?' It's like I knew but I didn't know, and I didn't know what to do. I was staring at him saying: 'Who are you? I don't know who you are.' Then boom the memory comes back," Thompson-Hill said.

She's far from the only long-hauler that continues to experience symptoms of COVID-19 after no longer being contagious.

Recent research has found that one in three of those who contract COVID-19 can go on to develop persistent symptoms, with studies citing heart, lung and cognitive issues, as well as debilitating fatigue and pain. They've come to be known as COVID long-haulers, and Canada could have hundreds of them.

Sandi Urban, who is from Regina, said being a long-hauler feels like "every pain you've ever had, in one."

Urban experienced swelling, muscle pain, tachycardia and what feels like electric shocks through her body from nerve pain shooting up her limbs.

"I've had a couple of days where I was certain I was going to die," Urban said.

Today, she still doesn't know what each day holds.

WATCH | Why Canada's support for COVID-19 long-haulers is lagging

Looking for answers

Urban spent 21 days in self-isolation before she was cleared by health officials.

"Now that I'm done isolation, I feel ignored," Urban said. Health officials tell her to wait it out.

Thompson-Hill has been told the same.

Both women have seen several specialists in order to get some answers.

"My poor doctor. I've seen him the most I've ever seen him in my life, and he doesn't know what to do," Thompson-Hill said.

Thompson-Hill has seen a naturopath, had done myofascial relief and takes vitamins, but her symptoms persist. She's even awaiting an MRI.

"I'd take anything to make me better," Thompon-Hill said.

As for Urban, she's working with a specialist to "figure out what happened to my body as a result of the virus, and trying to manage symptoms as best as we can."

'It's not funny. I want my life back.'

With variants of concern emerging around the world as dominant strains, Urban is concerned she could get the virus again despite still living with symptoms from her previous infection.

Health Canada says studies show reinfection can occur in people who have already had the virus.

"We need to respect each other and that includes following ways to stop the spread of the virus," Urban said.

Both women want people to take their illness seriously.

"What bothers me is when people who haven't had it, or had such a mild case of it, makes fun of it," Thompson-Hill said. She equates people who had the virus with no symptoms to "winning the lottery."

"It's not funny. I want my life back. You wouldn't do that with cancer patients, or someone with a terminal illness. We're ill, we're not getting better and we're stuck in limbo. This is going to be years of this."

Urban agreed.

"We need to be aware there are variants out there, and we don't know how that will affect people with COVID," Urban said.

"There are so many unknowns and we need to be caring, cautious and compassionate people."