Many COVID-19 patients experiencing neurological issues during recovery


CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. (KDVR) — One might think Rob Carney would be ecstatic after beating COVID-19.

The Crested Butte man spent 39 days in hospitals and 10 days on a ventilator.

However, Carney is still struggling even after returning home.

“It was brutal, just brutal. It has really messed up my life,” Carney said.

Carney is among the growing number of patients now experiencing neurological issues from COVID-19. He woke up from his time on a ventilator in a state of delirium. Carney says he was convinced for days that his doctor and nurses were trying to kill him.

“I swear to God I thought I saw the doctor kill the guy next to me and I said to him, ‘Please don’t kill me,'” Carney said.

Carney has also struggled with short-term memory loss and speech. For several days he was unable to talk.

“They couldn’t understand me at all and I thought I was speaking perfectly fine,” Carney said.

After being released from the hospital, Carney also developed what he calls the “COVID shakes,” making it nearly impossible to eat or sleep.

“When I tried to eat I’d shake so much I’d spill food all over. It’s very hard to explain, but when I’d sleep at night my hands were fighting each other back and forth. I’d have my hand holding the other one down to keep it from shaking. They would shake so bad I could not hold my hands straight,” he said.

Carney isn’t alone. Several recent studies show as many as 1/3 of all coronavirus patients are experiencing neurological side effects.

Dr. Daniel Pastula is a neuro-infectious disease expert at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. He says he’s not surprised patients are experiencing neurological problems, given the severity of COVID-19.

“With these COVID-19 viral infections, we’re seeing overwhelming cases of inflammation starting in the lungs and spilling over into the body, and the brain doesn’t like inflammation at all,” Pastula explained.

There are several theories as to why COVID-19 patients are experiencing neurological symptoms. Some believe the virus may actually be entering the nervous system. Others, like Pastula, believe the symptoms are likely the brain’s reaction to extreme inflammation and low oxygen levels.

Carney worries he’ll never fully recover from coronavirus and worries about the long-term impacts that will continue to flare up.

“I feel like COVID has shortened my life. It’s really worked me hard,” Carney said.

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