March 17, 2021 — Aaron Goyang thinks his long bout with COVID-19 has finally come to an end, several weeks after getting his second dose of a vaccine.
Goyang, who is 33 and is a radiology technician in Austin, Texas, thinks he got COVID-19 from some of the coughing, gasping patients he treated last spring.
At the time, testing was scarce, and by the time he was tested — several weeks into his illness — it came back negative. He fought off the initial symptoms but experienced relapse a week later.
Goyang says that for the next 8 or 9 months, he was on a roller coaster with extreme shortness of breath and chest tightness that could be so severe it would send him to the emergency room. He had to use an inhaler to get through his workdays.
“Even if I was just sitting around, it would come and take me,” he says. “It almost felt like someone was bear-hugging me constantly, and I just couldn’t get in a good enough breath.”
On his best days, he would walk around his neighborhood, being careful not to overdo it. He tried running once, and it nearly sent him to the hospital.
“Very honestly, I didn’t know if I would ever be able to do it again,” he says.
But Goyang says that several weeks after getting the Pfizer vaccine, he was able to run a mile again with no problems. “I was very thankful for that,” he says.
Goyang is hardly alone. Some social media groups are dedicated to patients who are living with a condition that’s been known as long-haul COVID-19 and that was recently named termed post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC).
On social media, patients with long-haul COVID-19 are eagerly and anxiously quizzing each other about the vaccines and their effects. Some report that they’ve finally seen their symptoms resolve, giving hope that long-haul COVID-19 might not be a lifelong condition.
Survivor Corps, which has a public Facebook group with 159,000 members, recently took a poll to see whether there was any substance to rumors that these patients were feeling better after being vaccinated.
“Out of 400 people, 36% showed an improvement in symptoms, anywhere between a mild improvement to complete resolution of symptoms,” said Diana Berrent, a long-haul COVID-19 patient who founded the group. Survivor Corps has become active in patient advocacy and is a resource for researchers studying the new condition.