The Road to Recovery
We need to make sure others like me are heard and given a second chance at life.
F E A T U R E
— MAR I ANNA C I SNE ROS , RN
e health care community at large learns new information and guidance on COVID-19 and long COVID every day, and Scripps stays on the leading edge so patients with ongoing health problems can rest assured they’re receiving the most current treatment and advice. Caregivers listen and learn from patients who are facing a wide range of COVID-related conditions, then work with a team of experts to help get them back to wellness. It remains unknown why some patients recover quickly from the virus and some languish for months, or why others who initially had mild or no symptoms are hit with complications long aer their rst exposure. Experts also can’t predict what symptoms a person will end up with. COVID-19 can aect seemingly any part of the body and cause a disproportionate response from the body’s immune system. Doctors could see why lung problems might linger due to the shortness of breath attributed to acute COVID, but not the neurologic dysfunction that causes various “silent” problems, such as fatigue or malaise, that may not be diagnosable or even observable via traditional methods. Bradley Patay, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic, Torrey Pines, and head of the Torrey Pines COVID-19 Recovery clinic, says, “I've heard of patients with a myriad of symptoms from the head to the toes. Individuals have headaches, cognitive problems, palpitations and lightheadedness; which suggests dysautonomia, an imbalance of the nervous system that's responsible for regulating involuntary body functions, such as heartbeat, blood ow, breathing and digestion. “Multiple other complications can be present, ranging from blood clots to pulmonary disease. e outcome from the virus can be quite debilitating, but there is hope with continued ongoing research and diagnostic and therapeutic trials. Ultimately, you want to listen to patients and not discount their symptoms, because there's a general idea of what the acute COVID condition is and the symptoms people get, but this post-COVID condition is yet to be fully gured out.” e doctors do say one thing is crystal clear: e best way to prevent long-termCOVID is to get vaccinated and avoid infection in the rst place. Healing and Hope In its rst four weeks, more than 90 patients registered for theCOVID-19RecoveryProgram. As of early July, eight have “graduated.” Dr. Doohan says that in general, they’ve begun to see symptoms improving at around
As part of her therapy, Cisneros participates in the Scripps Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.
ough she still faces respiratory issues and has trouble walking, steady rehabilitation and treatment and regular check-ins with Dr. Doohan have helped her get to a place where she’s able to work as a nursing supervisor at Scripps Mercy Hospital, Chula Vista (though not in the ICU), care for her children and resume nurse practitioner school so she can someday work with patients with brain injuries. She just began cardiopulmonary rehabilitation through the Scripps post-COVID clinic, and is optimistic that she can eventually transition o heart medication. She’s still advocating for other long-haulers, and has even helped launch a support group for Scripps employees. “I’m not sure if I will ever get back to my baseline, but I am hopeful and have faith,” she says. “I almost feel like my experience with recovering from COVID needed to happen so that other people can get help. We need to make sure others like me are heard and given a second chance at life.”
the 6-month mark. Some patients make a full recovery. Others are learning how to live with a newfound disability that will require specialist visits and special accommodations indenitely. “I've certainly seen quite a lot of people who have a lot of fear, a lot of questions. ey don’t know what to believe,” she says. “ey come see us, then they understand what might get better and what they might have to live with for a while. I have such gratitude to our patients for under- standing that it's a new disease with a chronic component, and that we need to work together to nd whatever answers there might be.” For Marianna Cisneros, the road to recovery is long and grueling, but once the COVID-19 Recovery Program was up and running, she knew she had people in her corner. e sta there help her manage referrals, medications, physical therapy, insurance issues and numerous other aspects of her care. “e post-COVID clinic has really taken on those challenges,” she says. “ey've essentially been the facilitator and relieved me of the burden of having to make all these phone calls and nd referrals. All that's taken o my hands. It’s amazing to have someone to help you navigate such a dicult recovery time and know you're not alone.”
To learn more about Scripps’ COVID Recovery Program, visit Scripps.org/SDCOVIDRecovery .
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