'This disease is different': Long-haul COVID-19 clinic in Edmonton busy since February opening
EDMONTON -- Albertans suffering from long-haul COVID-19 now have dedicated access to a recovery clinic in Edmonton.
Since opening its doors in February, the Edmonton North Primary Care Network (PCN) has seen a steady flow of patients struggling to manage the long-term symptoms of COVID-19.
“We haven’t had any weeks where we haven’t had any patients,” Dr. Richard Chan, the lead primary care physician at PCN, said.
According to PCN, about 10 to 30 per cent of people who contracted the disease will experience chronic symptoms, regardless of how sick they were during the onset of COVID-19.
Some of the most common symptoms long-haulers experience include mental and physical fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, muscle and joint pain, anxiety and depression.
“This disease is different,” Chan said.
“If you do too much physically or mentally it can flare up all the symptoms these patients are experiencing.”
“I have to be very careful about what I do because my brain will just turn off,” Tracey Zilkie, a COVID-19 long-hauler, added.
According to Chan, doctors are taking an educational approach with patients as the long-term symptoms of the disease can be debilitating. He told CTV News Edmonton their usual tools to treat these symptoms are not working.
“So far we’re seeing that a lot of the tests come back normal, which is frustrating both for patients and for us because then what do we do to treat these patients?”
'IT’S ALMOST LIKE MY BRAIN IS CONCUSSED'
Chan explained it has to be an individualized treatment plan, gauging how much rest each person can get. This is determined by their lifestyle.
“They just keep trying to push through it, and they end up on this rollercoaster or COVID-coaster as some of my patients have called it, where they feel really good, they do a lot in one day, and then the next three or four days they can’t do anything,” Chan said.
“People who were highly functional, highly intelligent people, are now barely able to follow a conversation or a movie plot.”
Zilkie contracted COVID-19 while on a work trip in Calgary back in November. She said she still struggles with brain fog, fatigue and balance issues.
“It’s almost like my brain is concussed, that’s what it feels like,” she said.
“I can do one thing. So I have to be very picky, and that takes away from my ability to be a really good mom.”
Chan told CTV News he’s noticing long-haul patients are being stigmatized.
“We’re finding people are starting to fall through the cracks,” he said.
“It’s hard too because people when they see me they think I’m fine, like I look OK,” Zilkie added.
The clinic is accepting referrals from family physicians in the Edmonton area, as well as self-referrals for anyone still experiencing symptoms 10 weeks after diagnosis.
With files from CTV Edmonton’s Touria Izri