CORONAVIRUS UTAH

Some COVID Long Haulers Reporting Improvements After Vaccine

Mar 26, 2021, 11:15 PM | Updated: 11:39 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After months of dealing with long-lasting symptoms from COVID-19, some long-haul COVID-19 patients said the vaccine has improved their symptoms.

It’s been a long, bumpy road for people like Jennifer Hunter. In June 2020, Hunter was training for a half marathon. Instead of running the race, “I landed in the ICU. I had over 30 pulmonary embolisms.” And it was just the beginning of a monthslong race for relief.

“This long journey over several months with just some crazy symptoms that come and go and some that I wasn’t sure would ever go away,” Hunter said, who suffered from irregular heartbeats, drops in oxygen, brain fog and fatigue.

“I couldn’t really exert myself or if I tried to do that I was down for a few days afterward,” she said.

Hunter is a teacher. In February she received her vaccine and “since then I’ve been feeling really well. It’s a night and day difference.”

For Hunter, it was a dose of hope that symptoms wouldn’t last a lifetime. But not everyone has reported feeling better.

“I would have to have the list in front of me. It’s a couple dozen symptoms long,” said Sara Johnston.

Johnston got sick in March 2020, before there was anything close to mass testing. She was never tested for COVID-19 because she didn’t meet the strict criteria at that time of limited testing. But since then, she said four physicians have told her she had COVID-19.

Apart from the chest pain, heart palpitations, nausea and fatigue she continues to experience since, Johnston has had 10 episodes of blindness in her right eye. And it has taken a toll.

“Just difficulty trying to be a good mom and be there for my kids,” she said. “They want a mom that can run and play and jump and wrestle, do the things we used to do together and I can’t do that without consequence.”

Johnston, like Hunter, is a member of the Utah COVID Longhauler Facebook group, which has about 2,800 members. She decided to get the vaccine after they polled members of the group. Of the 89 people to respond, roughly 11% said they saw improvement in their symptoms after the vaccine. Around 90% reported their long-haul symptoms had so far remained the same.

“I wouldn’t say they should go get the vaccine because they think it’s going to cure them,” Johnston said.

She got her first dose earlier this week, with minimal side effects and no change in symptoms. But she looks forward, at least, to an added layer of protection against the virus.

Like medical experts and others experiencing lasting symptoms, Johnston also looks forward to more research and study to help determine the lasting effects of the vaccine on their symptoms. To others still dealing with the impact of the virus, she said, “Keep hanging in there. I think that things can and will get better. It’s going to take time and it’s going to take perseverance and patience and reaching to people for support when you need it.”

Hunter still has occasional shortness of breath because of scarring in her lungs. But the heart problems, fatigue and other symptoms have vanished since getting the vaccine. And she’s “hoping they don’t come back.”

“Even if it doesn’t necessarily cure you from the long-hauler symptoms, I think that peace of mind helps a lot,” she said of the vaccine.

Now, for the first time since she was infected with COVID-19, Hunter is back to training for a half marathon. And this time she intends to run her race.

“It feels like a miracle in a way,” she said. “I didn’t know if I was ever going to get over it.”

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Some COVID Long Haulers Reporting Improvements After Vaccine