COVID Long Haul Turns Health Writer Into a Detective
I’m a health care journalist, struggling to translate the world of medicine for the average person who knows they should live healthier but not how or why. In March of 2020, New York was in the midst of one of the earliest and most severe outbreaks of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and it was a stressful time. But for me, though, it brought more than just inconvenience and anxiety.
Just the Beginning of the COVID Experience
It brought ‘an alien feeling inside of my body’ and ‘a vise grip on my head’ but nothing that sounded like the typical description of symptoms of COVID-19. All the Googling in the world couldn’t get me answers, my symptoms continued to accumulate, with the feeling that something was wrong. I had shortness of breath, chest pain, stomach issues and nausea.
I just knew that my body was suddenly under attack. Over the months, I saw many doctors, had at least eight blood draws and had every part of my body X-rayed. Part of the issue was no one had experienced COVID long enough for long haul COVID syndrome to be identified.
I’m extremely grateful I had access to so many specialists in New York City, but after it became apparent that no more moves were available, and doctors were overwhelmed, I felt helpless. For long COVID patients, I can say that even the best primary care doctors in the country, some of which I talked to, had no cures, and could only offer band-aid solutions for the COVID symptoms.
Finding Help with Mymee
I realized I needed someone to guide me through the process. The long term effects of COVID came and went and I wasn’t able to figure out why. I kept a journal, saw a physical therapist, a herbalist for gastric distress, acupuncturists for stress relief, but I was still disabled by frequent and severe migraines. This led me to Mymee, a digital care program for COVID long haul that uses data tracking and guided personal health coaching, to try to isolate the specific triggers that might be causing symptoms.
I was tracking but I wasn’t able to draw these conclusions myself. Mymee helped me make sense of this. The coach suggested what to track at first and we worked together to connect the dots, suggesting pulling back on one thing or reintroducing something else. I never felt self-conscious sharing because we both had the same goal in mind: to get me better.
I’m in my early 40s, and I had previously been very active, working out five to six times a week, eating a healthy diet, and enjoying New York with my wife and 10-year-old daughter. My frustration with trying to deal with multiple symptoms and mysterious triggers was growing, and feeling hopeless was adding to my stress. After any kind of physical exertion, I would have a debilitating migraine within a day or two.
Clues from Diet & Exercise
My coach and I worked together, looking closely at my diet and removing a few of the staples I ate regularly, like gluten, dairy, histamines and pea protein to try to reduce inflammation.
Next was exercise, which included walking and bike riding, my two main forms of transportation in the city. Together, we looked at how long I could ride or walk without triggering a migraine, testing and timing different variations. We tracked my heart rate and found that certain kinds of exertion over six or seven minutes would cause migraines so severe that it would take me up to a week to recover from.
It was therapeutic to unload my experiences each week so there was that immediate benefit. Then, after hanging up after a call with my coach, I got to put the new strategies into practice. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn't, but each time, I got a boost of much-needed hope.
Signs of Progress
These small steps have made a difference and I wish I would have found them sooner. I will keep working with my doctors and health care team, and I know the research into the causes of long COVID continues to advance. Until then though, I’m managing by avoiding the things I know now are triggers for me, and I’m much better at describing my symptoms to my healthcare providers when I have an appointment or tests.
In 2021, moving to Florida became a new life path for our family, adding more sunshine, more living space - and a pool, because the cold water helps me physically feel better. My family has adjusted to my lower energy levels and my daughter still treats me like the same guy she’s always loved. That gives me perspective on everything they’ve been through in the past year and a half.
Knowing even a little more than I did before has helped. I might have eventually figured it out on my own but I’m grateful to discover there were steps I could take to gain a bit more control of my health. Mymee is not therapy but there was no one who knew what I was going through week to week like my health coach. She was really trying to help and had the tools to do so – it was really valuable.
Read the full story in Eat This, Not That.