NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — More and more COVID-19 survivors are becoming “long haulers,” suffering a variety of symptoms long after their original infection passes.

As doctors look deeper into the syndrome, they’re finding disturbing evidence of heart damage, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.

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It’s one of the mysteries of this coronavirus; some people get desperately sick and die, while others suffer such mild symptoms they may not even connect it to COVID.

What’s concerning is that some patients, even those with mild disease, have long standing symptoms and may end up with damaged hearts.

That’s what happened to Christelle Millet Robinson. An avid runner and tri-athlete, Robinson was inadvertently infected by a patient while working as a nurse at Hackensack University Medical Center.

COVID VACCINE

“I had the fevers, muscle ache, joint pain,” Robinson said. “The headaches, shortness of breath.”

Robinson was left with some long haul symptoms. Six months later, “I just was walking to exercise and I lost consciousness,” she said.

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Her blood pressure had dropped by half, causing her to faint.

That’s when she turned to Dr. David Landers, vice chair of the heart and vascular hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, who’s running a clinical trial on long-COVID disease as it affects the heart.

“Swelling or edema of the heart, as well as scarring of the heart. And these can translate into direct performance abnormalities of the heart,” Dr. Landers said. “Either the right side of the heart or the left side of the heart, not beating appropriately.”

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Dr. Landers is using advanced MRI scanning to try to detect the heart issues early on and then try to figure out how the virus actually damages the heart.

Robinson is still suffering debilitating headaches and won’t exercise outdoors in case she faints again.

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While the study is ongoing, Dr. Landers says it’s important to seek medical care if your COVID symptoms persist.

Dr. Max Gomez