Regina Juarez a 56 year-old Highland resident and home health nurse loves spending time with her grandchildren. She has always led an active life until she got COVID.
"Very busy always taking care of everybody else," Juarez said. "Patients, family, friends, people I don't even know."
But in June 2020 Juarez says she became severely sick from COVID-19.
"Like about the third day, I started having chest pain and severe shortness of breath and my oxygen level was very low," Juarez said.
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Eight months later Juarez says she still felt weak, so she went to a cardiologist who made a disturbing discovery about the condition of her heart.
"My EKG was abnormal," Juarez said. "I had some fluid around the heart and pericarditis and rapid irregular heartbeats."
Doctors at Loma Linda University Medical Center say Juarez is a COVID-19 long hauler. This is when someone whose organs like the heart or lungs still remain weak from the virus.
"Chest tightness, fatigue, palpitations, dizziness," said Dr. Purvi Parwani a cardiologist.
Dr. Parwani says about 20-40% of COVID-19 patients suffer from long hauler issues. In some cases they can take more than a year to recover from.
Dr. Parwani says people who are fully vaccinated are much less likely to suffer from long hauler issues.
"You would have less severe symptoms and your recovery is faster if you are vaccinated," Dr. Parwani said.
There was no COVID-19 vaccine when Juarez got sick. But they are now widely available. She's encouraging anyone who is eligible to get the shots.
"I still have chest pain everyday with exertion and stress," Juarez said.