GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As scientists explore COVID-19’s lasting effects and the obstacles patients face in recovery, doctors find themselves helping patients through new conditions caused by the virus's impact on the brain.
Doctor Ralph Wang is a rehabilitation doctor at Mary Free Bed who tells us the road to recovery is long for patients with conditions COVID-19 can worsen and those it can create.
“When they come to us, let's say they're at a zero, and 10 is like normal, they're usually leaving at like four or five,” Dr. Wang says of patients recovering at Mary Free Bed. “So they still have a long way to go unfortunately for their recovery.”
And if that wasn’t enough COVID causes neurologic problems
“And just with COVID,” Says Dr. Wang. “You have low oxygen levels for a sustained amount of time, which can cause what we call an anoxic brain injury, which is kind of like a mini stroke.”
Brain injuries from COVID-19 can leave patients feeling foggy, forgetful, and fighting serious mental health issues they never had before like anxiety and depression.
“The brain chemistry has actually been altered because of COVID,” Wang tells FOX 17. “And so we do find people needing antidepressants, at least for a temporary amount of time.”
Mary Free Bed is focusing on what they can do for post-COVID patients now.
“I think time and therapy, both help, certainly, therapy will kind of accelerate the healing,” Wang explains. “So with cognitive challenges, especially in the hospital, we do have our speech, our actually cognitive therapists and they help with some of the retraining, as far as focus and attention. And then for the mood aspect, if it's severe, certainly we'll have psychologists who help with that component.”
Staff at Mary Free Bed developed COVID-19 recovery clinics to help anyone – not just those hospitalized by the virus – needing help with their ‘post-COVID symptoms.
“I think for certainly the post-COVID syndrome,” Dr Wang says. “There's significant problems, and as health professionals we're recognizing in ourselves, and we've built actually teams around for post-COVID syndrome and other hospitals have probably around the country, because this is something we are recognizing as a new disease that needs paying attention to.”
Clinics offered by Mary Free Bed are available for anyone needing help with long-term symptoms, including cognitive and physical therapies.