Two Edmonton women who believe they contracted COVID-19 in March are sharing the difficult long-lasting effects in the hopes that Albertans will take the disease more seriously.
Terra Brie Stewart and Lynda McHenry are what's becoming known as long haulers — people who once had COVID-19 and are still feeling some symptoms.
Stewart, a 43-year-old fitness enthusiast, says she caught the coronavirus on the way home from Cuba after she stopped and talked with a man who had been detained at the airport for showing symptoms.
Two weeks later: "I was hit with delirium, confusion," Steward told CTV News Edmonton. "I had been trying to write an email and I couldn’t figure out how to use my email program and my knees buckled before I could even get to bed."
Stewart also had a fever, struggled to breathe and developed a long-lasting skin rash, chest pain, and just recently — bulging veins.
"Had I really known this was a possible outcome of contracting COVID, I would have been a lot more careful," she said.
"We think COVID is just what's going to injure people with pre-existing conditions or the elderly. Well, I’m neither but what about the injury to me essentially being a single parent with three kids that I have to support?"
Stewart is back at work but says she can only manage to work half of the day because she needs two hours of sleep in the afternoon to recover.
McHenry, a cancer survivor, also believes she caught COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic and is still suffering.
"If I go for a walk around the block, I’m huffing, like wheezing," she told CTV News. "You don't want to experience this; you just don't."
McHenry, a dragon boat racer, hasn't gone back to work or paddling.
Dr. Adrian Owen, a professor of neuroscience at Western University, says there are tens of thousands of long haulers who continue to feel COVID-19 symptoms months after.
Dr. Owen is studying the disease's long-lasting effect and is working to recruit 50,000 survivors to take part.
"Basically, there are three ways this could go," he told CTV News. "These could be temporary impairments, acute impairments, that are caused by the COVID-19 virus that gradually go away over time. They could be quote 'permanent' in the sense they never get better or worse, or the worst-case scenario is they somehow lead to a sort of a neurodegenerative-like condition and things actually get worse over time."
People can participate in his study at covidbrainstudy.com.