Long-hauler reacts to study showing COVID-19 changes in brain

Mar 7, 2022, 11:23 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 2:07 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY — As a new study emerged that suggested even mild cases of COVID-19 change the brain and potentially speed up its aging, long-haul sufferers said the findings bring them a measure of vindication.

The study, published in the journal “Nature,” found those who had COVID-19 exhibited a more significant loss of grey matter as well as brain tissue abnormalities compared to those who had not contracted the disease.

Researchers said those in the study who exhibited a greater loss of brain tissue also performed the most poorly on a test gauging brain processing speed and function that is generally used to help identify cognitive impairments associated with dementia.

“It’s definitely a journey I never expected to have,” said Saralee Johnston, who came down with COVID-19 on March 8, 2020. “Just the case that I got was enough to knock me down for two years and I’m still recovering.”

Johnston said her flu-like symptoms had faded when she started experiencing other troubles.

“As soon as I started pushing myself a little with exercise, I had an episode of blindness in my right eye,” she told KSL TV.

Other problems soon surfaced, including temporary inabilities to read emails, interpret her own shorthand writing, remember names of coworkers and recall work processes she had personally designed.

Study links even mild COVID-19 to changes in the brain

“I didn’t link it to the illness that I had because nobody said this was something that COVID was doing,” Johnston said.

Researchers told CNN while the average person loses 0.2% to 0.3% of grey matter per year due to aging, those who had contracted COVID-19 lost an additional 0.2% to 2%.

They said the area of the brain most commonly impacted was the one related to sense of smell.

“Man, I saw that study and I felt vindicated,” Johnston chuckled.

After testing several medications, she said she finally found one in November that has started to help her.

She continues to advocate on behalf of others like her through the Utah COVID-19 Long Haulers group.

“I’m still struggling with processing information at a reasonable speed,” Johnston said. “It’s completely changed who I was as an employee, but also as a friend, as a mother, just being able to have the bandwidth to think through problems and take care of everyone and do the kinds of things I usually would do.”

She hoped the findings would somehow make a difference and she was grateful for the confirmation they brought to her personally.

“I knew that was a fact, you know, within the first several months that this is what was happening,” Johnston said. “It just takes some time for the science to catch up.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus Utah

FILE PHOTO (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)...
Josh Ellis

Utah doctor, others charged with running COVID vaccine scheme, issuing fake records and giving fake shots

A Utah plastic surgeon, his medical corporation and three others have been charged after prosecutors say they issued fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards and injected minors with saline shots.
14 days ago
FILE: People line up in their cars as members of the Utah National Guard give COVID-19 swab tests a...
Eliza Pace

Gov. Cox, along with 24 other governors, call on President Biden to end Federal Public Health Emergency

Gov. Spencer Cox signed a letter with 24 other governors calling on President Joe Biden to end the federal public health emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic.
1 month ago
flu shot tripledemic...
Matt Rascon

KSL+: The rise of respiratory viruses and COVID’s impact

It’s not even winter yet, and the CDC is warning that the country is experiencing a resurgence of respiratory viruses, which are taking a toll on hospitals and children.
2 months ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer

US clears updated COVID boosters for kids as young as 5

The U.S. on Wednesday authorized updated COVID-19 boosters for children as young as 5, seeking to expand protection ahead of an expected winter wave.
4 months ago
Alex Cabrero and Mike Anderson, KSL TV

Sandy woman shares frustration of ongoing battle with COVID-19

As life starts to return to normal from the pandemic, for millions of Americans, it still causes a daily struggle. That's the case for one Sandy woman, who shared her story Tuesday.
4 months ago
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 09: A pharmacist prepares to administer  COVID-19 vaccine booster sho...
Jed Boal

University Health recommends getting omicron booster and flu shot now

The CDC approved the COVID-19 bivalent boosters that target the most recent omicron variants on September 1. Since then, tens of thousands of Utahns have rolled up their sleeves.
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Long-hauler reacts to study showing COVID-19 changes in brain