HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In February, Hawaii resident Dan Tyson was hospitalized in Japan after catching COVID-19 on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
A month later, he was relieved to back at his St. Louis Heights home.
And he thought that was the end of his ordeal. Instead, that was just the beginning.
Nine months later, Tyson, says he now lives like a hermit to avoid getting sick again and the previously healthy 72-year-old is still dealing with the long-term health impacts of COVID-19.
“I don’t think it’s a joke. I don’t think it’s a hoax. This is a really serious,” he said.
He gets winded while walking, has elevated blood pressure, trouble sleeping and difficulty concentrating.
In the past, he could sit down and do his financial statements for an hour. Now he needs breaks.
“Really intense crunching numbers so forth and I have to slow down and take a five-, 10-minute rest before I could go back,” said Tyson.
Dr. Bennett Loui, Hawaii Pacific Health’s chief of internal medicine, said so-called COVID-19 “long haulers” are an increasing problem.
“We’ll be dealing with these persistent COVID problems for months and years to come,” said Loui, who is director of Hawaii Pacific Health’s long COVID care program.
“Most people, especially young and healthy people, who get COVID-19 recover quickly within a few weeks, but we are finding that quite a few people have long-term effects,” he added.
Loui says a recent study of thousands of COVID-19 patients showed 13% experienced symptoms beyond the first month of contracting the disease.
The long-term effects of COVID-19 can include shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, heart and lung problems and memory problems.
“We don’t know a lot. We think it’s not the persistence of the virus,” he said.
“It’s more about the immune system’s prolonged response, inflammatory reaction, small vessel disease, but we have a long way to go to really understand and develop treatments.”
Adrienne Yamamoto, a physical therapist at REHAB Hospital of the Pacific, said one of her patients who initially needed oxygen can now do challenging exercises. She says weight loss is a common issue.
“You are lying in bed for x amount of time. Sometimes it’s weeks, sometimes it’s months and you are not able to move so all sorts of things get stiff, weak and atrophied,” said Yamamoto.
These days, Tyson does business mentoring over Zoom to stay active, but avoids physical contact with people. And he’s taking his doctor’s orders seriously.
“Some people have died from COVID the second time around so he sorta put a fear of God in me,” he said.