California COVID long hauler says symptoms linger, partakes in Stanford study

A new clinic at Stanford is focused on patients with lingering long-term symptoms or after effects of COVID. Otherwise known as "long haul COVID" symptoms can include anything from brain fog and fatigue, to pulmonary and heart issues. This clinic is one of the first multi-disciplinary efforts to help these patients.

The clinic launched at the end of May.

The goal is both to treat these patients, but also to better understand why this is happening.

For Brandie Parshall, the last six months have been a nightmare.

She went from mother of four with a full-time job and a love of exciting vacations, to a long-haul COVID patient with a long list of ailments.

"Lots of ER visits. I went like five or six times. I actually went over the weekend because now I have blood vessels that are popping in my arms," says Parshall.

And that's not all: Her skin burns, her heart races, and her brain is foggy. And simple things, like going to dinner, can lay her up for a week.

"And it's getting to me. It's really getting to me because I just want my life back," she says.

And so Parshall, who lives out near Modesto, is going all the way to Stanford for treatment. She is part of their newly-launched COVID Clinic focused specifically on people with long-term symptoms.

They've got 35 patients enrolled so far, with more coming each week.

"The more we see, the more information we can gather from the patients, we're able to understand this kind of problem better," says Dr. Hector Bonilla, with Stanford University.

The clinic itself, had previously been dedicated to studying chronic fatigue. And doctors believe that research may give them a head start, given the fatigue component of long haul COVID.

Still, they expect, it may take years before they fully understand the extent of this disease and the immune response it's triggering.

"Treat the symptoms, for now. Try to improve the quality of life until we find out the roots of the problem," says Dr. Bonilla.

Parshall says she's seeing a pulmonologist, a cardiologist, and a neurologist so far.

She says she never would have expected a mild case of COVID, months ago, would land her here.

"It's horrible. It's horrible. I can't do anything. I can't even hold a conversation. I forget things that I say, I repeat myself," she says.

Still she says for the first time in months she's feeling hopeful: that doctors looking at the big picture will eventually make a big breakthrough.

"I have to hold on to the hope that there's going to be something to fix us long haulers," she says.

The Stanford clinic is in the process of applying for an National Institutes of Health grant.

They say the more patients they see over the next year or two, the more likely they'll get some answers.