NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Though they’re no longer battling the virus, many survivors of COVID-19 are suffering from a host of lingering symptoms like brain fog and panic attacks.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, there is help in the form of COVID-19 support groups.
“I though that I was going to go to sleep and not wake up, because it was that bad,” said Aida Vazquez of Brooklyn.
Vazquez, 53, was one of the borough’s early coronavirus victims.
She suffered for weeks with hellish fevers, coughing and chills.
Four months later, Vazquez said she never expected the emotional toll it would take.
“It has taken control over who Aida used to be, pre-COVID,” said Vazquez. “I have a fog in my brain. I call it ‘COVID brain.’ That’s my term for it… I forget, sometimes in the middle of my sentence I forget what I’m trying to say. I forget the easiest words.”
Vazquez said she suffers panic attacks when she tries to leave the house.
“Every now and then I’ll just start crying uncontrollably.” she said. “Because I felt like there were so many people around me, and I felt like they’re going to get me sick again. That’s my fear.”
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“It’s depressing, I can’t get out of the house,” said Steve Shannon, of Hauppauge.
Shannon, 58, still has debilitating lung damage after four months.
“It’s frustrating, anxious, and it definitely plays on our head, not knowing if you’re gonna get back to normal, or what the normal is.”
Anxiety, hair loss, fatigue, depression – all lingering symptoms of COVID-19, months after onset.
“One even told me that he had a long time to learn how to do email again… They were forgetting things,” said Lisa Penziner, director of special projects for Paragon Management, which runs nursing and rehab centers.
Paragon Management launched free, virtual support groups that are open to the public.
“People need to know there are effects after COVID and that if you’re feeling them, even months later, you are not alone,” said Penziner.
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The groups bring coronavirus survivors together with a psychologist, physical therapist and a nurse to help with strategies on how to move forward and take steps even to just get out of the house.
Help is also available through New York State’s emotional support help line and Facebook’s Survivor Corps page.
Vazquez called the Paragon support group a life line.
“That they’re going through the same thing I’m going through, it doesn’t make me feel like I’m going crazy because sometimes I’m like, ‘Is it just me?’ said Vazquez.
It’s certainly not.
The state help line has received nearly 20,000 calls, so far.
The state also offers what it calls “coping circles,” which are free group therapy sessions by video or phone.