By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Mayo Clinic has announced some much-needed relief for COVID-19 patients suffering long-term effects of the coronavirus. The hospital has launched a rehabilitation program to help these so-called “long haulers.”

Those are the people suffering symptoms weeks or even months after their infections.

“It started as a Monday in May. What I felt was something like an allergy attack,” John Murphy said.

Days later, Murphy learned he had COVID-19. The 58-year-old at first fought through the fever, but the fatigue, and the loss of taste and memory have lingered for months.

“Everybody expects it to run like a flu bug — it ramps up, you feel bad, it ramps back down, and you recover — and that’s not how it goes,” Murphy said.

Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn leads Mayo Clinic’s COVID Activity Rehabilitation Program (known as CARP) to help positive patients return to daily life sooner.

“Surviving the first acute infection with COVID is only the first chapter in COVID’s pandemic story,” Vanichkachorn said.

His team’s worked with 60 of what they call Post-COVID Syndrome patients, so far. From physical therapy, reconditioning work to fatigue specialists, CARP provides an individualized approach.

“From the start, it became clear the road to recovery was not going to be straight for a lot of these patients,” Vanichkachorn said.

Mayo’s is now one of several specialized centers across the country. Vanichkachorn said profound fatigue and headaches are some of the most common long-term symptoms. If they last longer than six months, he says it’s possible something else is wrong.

“You just don’t have what you had before, energy-wise,” Murphy said.

He’s only now starting to feel like himself again, believing the pandemic goes well beyond daily case counts.

“It’s just the quarantine that matters. That’s not the end of the road,” Murphy said.

It’s still not clear exactly how many patients will experience these long-term symptoms, but Vanichkachorn says it’s certainly not rare. If you’re not able to find help from your local provider for lingering effects, Mayo Clinic is accepting more patients.

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Liz Collin

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