‘Long haulers’ dealing with COVID-19 symptoms for months on end

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UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan — They are unofficially called the “long haulers” — the COVID-19 patients who continue to have symptoms not just for weeks, but for months.

When Dr. Scott Krakower, a married psychiatrist and father of two small children, tested positive for coronavirus in mid-April, he expected two weeks of intense illness.

He said he never thought two and a half months later, he’d still be feeling so sick and depleted.

“This thing really really knocked me down. I never expected this to happen to me,” Krakower told PIX11 News. “I didn’t think I was going to get that sick, or it was going to take this long,” he added.

The 40-year-old had no underlying health conditions, but at times, he thought he wasn’t going to survive.

“I got so sick. Up all night with intense chills and coughing up blood,” he said. “I was very sick.”

It wasn’t until Krakower came to the emergency room at Lenox Hill Hospital and met an emergency physician who prescribed a steroid that his lingering symptoms began to show progress.

“With his difficulty breathing especially, and swallowing, I prescribed dexamethasone that is quite helpful in an acute setting and works faster than other steroids,” Dr. Robert Glatter said.

Dexamethasone, a common steroid used to treat inflammation, worked for Krakower. But it won’t work for other patients, Dr. Glatter said.

And he is seeing so many others with lingering symptoms.

“I’m seeing people sick for months with fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath as they walk to the store and at this point it’s unclear what’s causing this,” Glatter told PIX11 News.

Those patients should see a doctor immediately, he added.

Krakower is still not well enough to go back to his job as a psychiatrist specializing in substance abuse in young adults at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, but he credits Glatter’s steroid and his wife for seeing him through the roller coaster of lingering coronavirus symptoms.

“I can’t imagine doing this without my wife through COVID,” Krakower said. “If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know where I’d be.”

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