Hair loss. Anxiety. Brain fog. A COVID ‘long hauler’ struggles with lingering symptoms

A year after Hawaii's first COVID case, thousands find recovery a long road

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kaaawa wife and mother Maile Alau says she was healthy and rarely got sick before being getting COVID-19 last August during the height of Hawaii’s cases.

Her lush backyard hillside filled banana and taro is a sanctuary and part of her post COVID workout.

Walking carefully, the 49-year-old makes it to the top, breathing heavily.

“I swear I’m not out of shape,” she says.

It’s the lingering effects of the disease that rocked her physically and mentally for two weeks.

“It is the loneliest feeling to be alone in your room with a fever of 101, 102 that’s with Tylenol and Ibuprofen, exhausted, not being able to breath and hearing life going on around you,” said Alau.

“I was scared. I had never felt like that before,” she added.

During her illness, Alau stayed in constant contact with her doctor and she says it took about two months to get back to near normal.

She even shared a video on social media warning others to be careful.

“Those of you saying it’s just a bad flu. No it is not. I’ve had the flu. This is not that. I could not breathe. I’m laying in bed panting like a ran a 5K,” she said, on her Facebook page.

Even months later, she still has lingering effects like breathlessness, hair loss, anxiety and brain fog.

“I lose words. I’m an English major, but I lose words easy words like ‘excellent.’”

The National Institutes of Health is launching a $1 billion study to understand so-called “COVID long-haulers” like Alau. Some studies show up to 30% of patients report symptoms that can last for months.

Despite the uphill climb, Alau says each day is a step forward and she says it with a smile behind her mask. “I definitely feel lucky. I know how bad it could have been,” she said.

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