Ten percent of people who recover from COVID-19, or more than 5,000 Connecticut residents at this point, will experience prolonged physical and emotional effects of the virus.
To address these varied needs – which include heart palpitations, dizziness, depression, brain fog and breathing trouble – Hartford HealthCare has created the region’s first COVID Recovery Center. Accessible by a central phone number (860.827.3200), the Center draws together the strength and depth of specialty clinical services from across the health system.
“We are ready to take care of people,” said Dr. Aneesh Tolat, an electrophysiologist and director of ventricular tachycardia with HHC’s Heart & Vascular Institute. “These are things that should be taken seriously and be evaluated.”
The service, according to Dr. Ajay Kumar, chief clinical officer at HHC, is possibly the first of its kind in the nation. It was inspired by observations by HHC experts after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We learned people were suffering with various symptoms … and experiencing significant disruption in their lives,” he said. “We want to bring all our capabilities, intellect and the best of science together.”
The COVID Recovery Center features experts from HVI and HHC’s Ayer Neuroscience Institute, Behavioral Health Network, pulmonology and critical care medicine and physical medicine. Sometimes, multiple specialists will coordinate to tailor a care plan that helps restore a patient’s quality of life.
“We want to say to people, ‘We hear you, we believe you. We understand you’re having significant problems,” said Dr. Mark Alberts, co-physician-in-chief of the Ayer Neuroscience Institute.
One of the more disturbing neurologic results of COVID-19, he said, is termed “brain fog” and embodies cognition and memory issues, trouble focusing and synthesizing thoughts.
“Sometimes, when you examine them, you realize it’s related to PTSD,” he said, referring to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a diagnosis for many after COVID-19 experiences both in and out of the hospital. “There’s stress to being in the hospital and isolated from family. There’s depression and anxiety.”
No lingering symptoms should be ignored, Dr. Tolat said. If left untreated, some of the cardiac issues can have life-threatening consequences as they involve inflammation of the heart or blood clotting issues.
Anyone who had COVID-19 and still experiences trouble should call for help.
- Trouble balancing or walking strait.
- Numbness or tingling in the arms and legs.
- Heart palpitations.
- Passing out.
- Muscle weakness.
- Chest discomfort.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, speaking or swallowing.
- Mood changes.
- Increased depression, anxiety or substance use.
“This is an evolving science but we bring all the latest technology and medical expertise to help,” Dr. Tolat said.
Patients can be seen in person or virtually. Those needing to see multiple providers can schedule convenient times together.
For more information, people who have had COVID-10 can call the COVID Recovery Center at 860.827.3200. Anyone with questions about the virus itself or testing can call the HHC Community Support Line, at 833.621.0600, 24 hours a day.