Growing COVID crisis: The effects and costs of Long COVID Syndrome

KPRC 2 Investigates the effects of long-haul COVID

Houston, TEXAS – Millions of Americans who caught, fought and survived COVID-19 and no longer have the virus are now battling a much longer-term disease now being called Long COVID Syndrome.

These are people plagued by a whole host of after-effects of the COVID virus that can be devastating.

“I haven’t gotten over COVID-19. Every day is suffering and agony. I’ve been sick for 18 months. Eighteen months of living a nightmare every day,” said Miranda Erlanson.

Erlanson is a wife, mother and former Austin ISD school teacher who is currently battling Long COVID Syndrome and suffering horrific problems with her heart, lungs, throat, stomach, legs and hands.

In fact, she went from running half-marathons to being confined to a wheelchair for several months because of severe muscle weakness, pain and numbness in her feet and legs.

“I was incredibly healthy before COVID. But afterward, after the virus, I started getting tingling and I couldn’t feel my feet, and I developed an incredible weakness in my hands, and I went to bed one night and the next day I woke up and I couldn’t walk,” Erlanson said while nearly breaking down in tears.

“It’s very easy to think that COVID just has two outcomes -- living or dying. But there is something in between, which is Long COVID, and it can be devastating,” said Dr. Luis Ostrosky, Chief of Infectious Diseases at The UT Health COVID Center of Excellence in Houston.

Ostrosky works at one of the more than 80 clinics nationwide that are now specializing in treating Long COVID Syndrome.

Although so much is still not known about Long COVID, he said it has the makings of a devastating disease that could leave its victims battling chronic problems with the heart, lungs, and brain.

Included in this article is an extended video interview with Dr. Ostrosky in which he talks about the most common health problems victims of Long COVID are enduring and being treated for.

But Ostrosky said this health menace is going to affect a lot of people and could cost those patients a lot of money as they fight health disorders that could last for months or years to come.

“We’re going to have this very large proportion of the population that is going to develop long-term care issues, and it’s going to be a substantial cost to the patient,” Ostrosky said.

How much of a cost? KPRC 2 Investigates asked.

Professor Bruce Lee at the City University of New York said these patients could face bills of several thousand dollars a month for the length of their treatment.

“Think about it. If you can’t concentrate or you are having breathing issues, things like that, then that can threaten your employment. So you have this double-whammy where you can’t work and you have medical bills. That could lead to financial disaster”, Lee said.

Erlanson has already wiped out her family’s savings account and says she still owes roughly $77,000 in unpaid medical bills for her treatment.

“I just want to get better and teach. It was my first year as a teacher. My first year,” Erlanson said.

About the Author:

Emmy-winning investigative reporter, insanely competitive tennis player, skier, weightlifter, crazy rock & roll drummer (John Bonham is my hero). Husband to Veronica and loving cat father to Bella and Meemo.