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UPDATED: How true is the claim that COVID-19 patients do not ‘truly’ recover?

4 mins read This article has been updated to include a response from Cherie Antoinette, the Twitter user whose tweet was the basis of the claim.

4 mins read

The headline of a news article claims ‘nobody truly recovers from COVID-19’

COVID-19 patients recover from the virus but some may suffer some health complications. That aside, the headline of the news story is misleading as the source cited was misrepresented and did not state that.

Full text

COVID-19 has given health practitioners new experiences in their field of work. An example of such experience with COVID-19 is one recounted in a tweet by a nurse as the worst disease she has ever worked with, as she further stated some effects of the virus on a recovered patient. The tweet has also been shared on Facebook and has received several interactions.

A news story which reported on the nurse’s statements on the effects of the virus has a headline claiming that “Nobody truly recovers from COVID-19”, attributing the said claim to the nurse.

Verification

In the tweet by the Twitter user Cherie Antoinette that the media organisation referenced, the nurse did not state that nobody truly recovers from COVID-19. What she did was to list a number of complications she claimed that one may suffer from the virus even after recovery, which she said most people are not privy to. 

“COVID 19 is the worst disease process I’ve ever worked with in my eight years as an ICU nurse. When they say “recovered” they don’t tell you that that means you may need a lung transplant. Or that you may come back after d/c (discharge) with a massive heart attack or stroke bc (because) COVID makes  your blood thick as hell. Or that you may have to be on oxygen for the rest of your life. COVID is designed to kill. It is a highly intelligent virus and it attacks everything. We will run out of resources if we don’t continue to flatten the  curve. I’m exhausted,” she tweeted.

More so, Dubawa reached out to Cherie Antoinette, who is a nurse at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Northside Atlanta and Grady Memorial Hospitals, and received an in-depth narration of the nurse’s experience with the readmission of a previous mild case of a COVID-19 patient – an experience she acknowledged was the cause of her tweet stemming from exhaustion and frustration. 

She recounted to Dubawa her experience with a mild COVID-19 patient who was readmitted with graver complications. The patient was readmitted with a heart attack and cardiogenic shock. Additionally, his foot was completely black and blue from a newly developed clot which she said were complications from COVID-19. 

“The unknown nature of the inflammatory process and the severity of the case is just uncertain. We must take all precautions to prevent infection. We can not get relaxed or complacent in our social distancing and hand-washing. Donning a mask is crucial. A once thought singular infection is proving to be a more sinister chronic process. There is just so much we don’t know about this virus or the long-term implications. That warrants great caution’’, Cherie stated.

We also interviewed a Ghanaian doctor with Tantra Community Clinic, Dr Senyo Misroame, who threw light on the nurse’s tweet. 

“She is not wrong in saying that. What she means to say is that the patient could have some complications even after recovering from the virus. Because you can recover from COVID-19 but later have some complications, which does not affect the patient’s recovery status. There is a difference, ” Dr Misroame said. 

He further explained that to recover from the virus means the patient does not show signs and symptoms of the virus, and there is also evidence of laboratory tests proving that the patient does not have the virus anymore, which confirms such patients as negative.

“When we use recovery in the strictest medical sense, it means there is not an active viral presence of COVID-19 in you anymore,” he said.

“However, we have found that there are some that could have immediate, medium or long-term complications after their recovery, such as stroke, their blood vessels getting thinner, respiratory problems, long term brain damage, just as the nurse indicated. We are still learning,” Dr Misroame added. 

Dr Misroame also clarified that if anyone is said not to have recovered, they are the patients who are described to have a case of Chronic COVID-19 which usually lasts beyond 6 weeks and even 6 months of testing positive. However, people do recover from COVID-19 although it is possible that some who do, may develop some complications either early or late.

Additionally, medical research has indicated complications associated with COVID-19 affecting the organs of patients long-term. For example, a study published by the American Heart Association showed that recovered COVID-19 patients could be affected with chronic cardiac complications due to persistent inflammation caused by the virus. 

Another study published by the Radiological Society of North America found that 66 out of 70 Wuhan COVID-19 discharged patients had lung abnormalities from their last CT scan results over a month after their discharges from the hospital. 

In view of this, a public health study published by the US National Institute of Health conducted on the post-recovery status of COVID-19 patients made some recommendations. The study showed possible complications some recovered patients may have, as a result of a multi-organ damage on the brain, heart, lungs, kidney, eyes and digestive tract, caused by the virus, and recommended the need to follow-up on recovered patients to have a  more comprehensive view of the virus and allow for timely medical interventions. 

“People who have recovered from COVID-19 should be more careful in maintaining and monitoring their health status. They have to be in regular monitoring for their future complications that may occur after their recovery. Hence, the recovered patients are recommended to complete a master health check-up to scout for risks for other diseases”, the study recommended.

Conclusion

The headline of the news report that nobody truly recovers from COVID-19 is misleading. The original post by the nurse on Twitter, which was referenced by the media organisation, only listed a number of complications that could be associated with the virus even after recovery. 

A Ghanaian medical doctor further explained the nurse’s statements by stating that recovering from COVID-19 is different from having complications from COVID-19. By explaining recovery as no longer having an active presence of the virus, the doctor stated that there are people who recover from the virus with no complications, while others also recover from the virus but could derive some early or late complications, which does not affect their COVID-19 recovery status in any way.

PS: This article has been updated to include a response by Cherie Antoinette, the Twitter user whose tweet was the basis of the claim.

Maxine Gloria Danso is a Senior Researcher with Dubawa Ghana. Maxine has previously worked as a Research Assistant engaging in some notable communication research projects in Ghana, having completed a Master of Philosophy programme in Communication Studies at the University of Ghana, with specialisation in journalism, public relations and advertising. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and French from the University of Ghana, with a University Diploma in French Studies from Université Rennes 2 in France. Maxine contributes to the team by drawing from her knowledge and research experience in media studies.

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