A year later, Coeur d’Alene man still dealing with long COVID symptoms; what doctors know about it

As we get ready to enter the third year of the pandemic, doctors are still figuring out the long-term effects of COVID-19.

People who have COVID-19 symptoms for more than four weeks are called long haulers. It’s also called long COVID. Some people who caught the virus more than a year ago are still suffering from it.

Some people, like Cody Turnbull, have dealt with symptoms for the last year and are trying to figure out what to do next.

Turnbull loves hiking, hunting and playing with his three-year-old daughter Joey. All those things became more difficult after he caught COVID-19 last December.

He used to be able to hike miles. Now, he struggles with the simplest things.

“Literally anything. If I tried to play with our daughter around the house, if I can chase her maybe from the kitchen to the bedroom or just chase her around, I have to stop and get my life together real quickly,” Turnbull said.

It came as shock to Turnbull. When he caught COVID last December, he felt mild symptoms. He said he only had body aches for a day and that was it. A few months later, he felt short of breath and his heart rate would range around the 150s with any activity.

Turnbull fainted at work twice on his 40th birthday earlier this year and went to the emergency room. Doctors had told him it was only anxiety, but it just kept persisting. Turnbull said they checked for many things including lung x-rays, EKGs, CT scans and more.

He eventually went to a lung doctor who said his symptoms were similar to long-haul COVID. Turnbull then found other people dealing with similar issues or worse on Facebook.

Common symptoms of long COVID include shortness of breath, fatigue, coughing, ongoing body pains, COVID brain. Rapid heartbeats, which Turnbull gets, is also a symptom. Doctors are also seeing depression and anxiety in COVID survivors, too.

One study says nearly four in 10 people who had COVID still had at least one symptom three to six months later. Many more studies are still being done as time goes on.

Dr. Dan Getz, the chief medical officer for Providence Sacred Heart, says long COVID can happen to anyone who contracts COVID-19 whether they have mild or serious symptoms. It’s still too early to tell whether or not vaccines can or can’t help with symptoms.

“We’re learning more every week. One of the things that’s frustrating for people is sometimes we’ll say something that’s contradictory to what we’ve said a number of months ago,” Getz said. “That’s because the information has changed, so we’re continuing to study that, but we just don’t know enough that we could say.”

Regardless of vaccination status, Dr. Getz says anyone who contracts COVID is still at risk of developing long COVID. However, he urges that vaccinations are still the best way to protect yourself from getting the virus and severe symptoms.

As scientists and doctors continue to figure out long COVID, Turnbull hopes things will get better eventually, so he can continue doing the things he loves.

“It’s not that awesome, but there’s a lot of people going through a hell of a lot worse. To me it’s just kind of comes with the cost of living, you know,” Turnbull said.

RELATED: Omicron v. delta: Battle of coronavirus mutants is critical