For many COVID-19 survivors, another devastating syndrome may follow, by Barbra Williams Cosentino, in Next Avenue, January 8, 2021
Myalgic encephalomyelitis, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is on the rise.
Lisa Shanks, 48, was a healthy, energetic cardio-dance and fitness instructor before March 2020.
But three weeks after coming down with COVID-19, she felt worse instead of better, coughing nonstop and feeling as if she was wearing a tight corset preventing her from taking deep breaths. She was weak, dizzy and had blurred vision.
A COVID-19 “long hauler,” Shanks, of Vacaville, Calif., felt disconnected from herself and from the world. Her heart rate soared if she did something as simple as get out of bed. She was afraid she would die.
Though never hospitalized due to the coronavirus, by four months into the illness, Shanks lost 20 pounds and had muscle wasting and sagging skin that she says “looked like a deflated balloon.”
‘A Body Nothing Like the One I Had Before’
Now, nine months after Shanks was first laid flat, she says,
“I feel like an alien has taken over my body. I’m like a car that has run out of gas, stuck inside this body that is nothing like the one I had before.”
Recently, after pulmonary function tests revealed that her lungs were only working at 50% capacity, Shanks was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME/CFS, often referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
“Individuals with the disorder need to learn pacing, in which they are taught to respect their own triggers and limitations.”
says Adriane Tillman, editor of #MEAction, an international organization of people with ME, caregivers and family members.
“This means stopping and resting at the first signs of overexertion. Pacing helps patients to avoid a cycle of push-and-crash which can worsen symptoms significantly.”