With COVID-19 cases again on the rise in Connecticut, Hartford HealthCare has unveiled a new “recovery center” that will guide former coronavirus patients to services.
The program is aimed at people who no longer are COVID positive but are struggling with long-term symptoms, including chest pain, brain fog or trouble concentrating, numbness in arms or legs, muscle weakness, dizziness and difficulty with balance or breathing.
Dr. Ajay Kumar, Hartford HealthCare’s chief clinical officer, said Wednesday that about 10% of former patients are seeing these lingering effects. In Connecticut, 61,861 people have tested positive for coronavirus or were presumed to have it, meaning more than 6,100 could be experiencing the prolonged symptoms.
“COVID-19 has left many patients with what we describe as the ‘long-hauler phenomenon,’” he said. “It’s a phenomenon where the symptoms come back after several weeks and linger on for a long time. It’s really important for any patient to seek help.”
Dr. Patrick Troy, a pulmonologist with the health care system, described three types of patients, all of whom could be experiencing long-ranging effects: One group with pre-existing conditions who developed COVID-19 and never got back to the state of health they were in before the virus; another group that developed respiratory problems upon infection, and those problems stuck around even after recovery, sometimes for as long as six months; and a third group that began with no breathing problems but were later hospitalized, often in the intensive care unit. The final group “almost always had residual symptoms,” Troy said, including “shortness of breath, difficulty walking around, maybe even to the point of having difficulty putting on their clothing or doing their daily activities.”
“Why is this happening?” he asked. “The answer is probably … there’s some sort of inflammatory pathways occurring in the patient. We need to discover more about that.”
Troy urged former patients with symptoms to reach out.
“Whether it’s chest pain, or maybe the heart doesn’t feel like it’s beating quite the right way, those symptoms should not be ignored,” he said.
The new recovery unit is a call center established by Hartford HealthCare that connects patients with physicians across various specialties. From there, they can arrange virtual or in-person appointments, or they may be referred to a hospital or outpatient center.
To access the recovery center, patients can call 860-827-3200.