Audrey Vanderhoek, an RN who lives in Chilliwack pictured here on Aug. 22, 2020, wants people to know that COVID-19 doesn’t stop affecting people after the acute phase of the illness. (Submitted photo)

Audrey Vanderhoek, an RN who lives in Chilliwack pictured here on Aug. 22, 2020, wants people to know that COVID-19 doesn’t stop affecting people after the acute phase of the illness. (Submitted photo)

B.C. nurse one of countless COVID-19 survivors looking for answers

‘I would be considered one of the completely healed cases in terms of statistics’

There are good reasons that survivors of COVID-19 have taken to calling themselves long haulers. All of those reasons are debilitating symptoms of the disease.

Long after the health care system has deemed them recovered, past COVID-19 patients are still burdened with the long-term effects of the illness. There’s the extreme fatigue, chronic coughs, colds and respiratory troubles, headaches, brain fog, body aches, unexplained high heart rates, chest pains, dizziness, kidney problems, and on and on.

Audrey Vanderhoek, an RN who lives in Chilliwack, is one of those survivors. As a long hauler who struggles day after day, she wants everyone to know what “recovered” really means.

For her, and countless thousands of others, it doesn’t mean you’re actually better.

“I want people to start thinking a little differently about COVID,” she says. She’s doing her daily walk and talking on her cell phone for the interview, but it sounds like she’s been running. She gasps, takes deep breaths every few words, and sometimes even struggles with her train of thought.

Her symptoms began at the end of April and she was diagnosed positively with COVID-19 at the beginning of May. Her acute phase of shedding the virus lasted the entire month, until she had her first negative result.

“And I’ve been chronic until now. I would be considered one of the completely healed cases in terms of statistics.”

She thought she was alone at first, but Vanderhoek reached out online and found a whole network of long haulers who are struggling post-infection. As their struggles grow month by month, they are getting connected and getting louder.

READ MORE: Survivors who missed out on polio vaccine hope for breakthrough against COVID-19

They want health authorities to recognize the long-term effects they are collectively seeing. Because COVID-19 is so new, the focus has largely been on understanding its spread, and stopping it. The long haulers are hoping researchers will look to them to learn just how harmful the virus is.

In addition to being a nurse in another city, Vanderhoek has a background in alternative medicine. She has been seeing a naturopath recently, and has been focusing on healing, staying positive, and keeping as active as possible. She is currently able to walk about two hours a day, but needs to keep inclines and speed to a minimum so she doesn’t go beyond her physical limits. If she pushes herself too hard, symptoms like a sore throat will come back.

Still, she’s finally starting to feel a bit better.

“Right now, I have to say as of about two weeks ago, I feel like I’ve turned a corner. Up until two weeks ago, I was still having daily chest pains, my heart rate was elevating for no reason, I had day-to-day shortness of breathe, fatigue, brain fog and memory issues. Now I feel clearer.”

But it could be a year or more before she really heals, she’s been told. She’s not sure if she will get back to running and martial arts and all of the other high-energy activities she once enjoyed. Yet, she’s hopeful.

And that positivity is something she wants other long haulers to embrace if possible. On the Facebook groups where she has found support, she has read “an incredible array of experiences.” And while she had no underlying health issues prior to COVID-19, and is expected to fully recover one day, she says others aren’t so lucky.

“I feel that COVID is highlighting the areas in our bodies that are weak, but not only the areas in our bodies, because it’s a global experience. I think it’s opened a Pandora’s box of systemic problems as well.”

She says the whole pandemic may change how we look at health care, for individuals and for larger communities and the world.

“We can choose the type of change we want to create, and for myself, I’m choosing health, a whole new level of health.”

READ MORE: ‘We’re the pioneers’: Canadian COVID-19 survivors share their stories


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusHealth

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crews had a lot to clean up and they are still working (file photo)
Power restored for the Valley after winter storm

All Bella Coola customers are now out of the dark

Highway 20 is now open but conditions are still challenging (Dawson Road Maintenance photo)
Some customers still without power as additional crews brought in to help

Trees continued to fall onto lines even after the actual storm had passed

The exposure occurred on 24th, 25th, & 26th November 2020, and affects Grade 7, 8, 9, 10 (file photo)
COVID-19 case confirmed at Acwsalcta School

The exposure occurred on 24th, 25th, & 26th November 2020, and affects Grade 7, 8, 9, 10.

A convoy of vehicles passes through Heckman Pass on Highway 20 as cleanup operations continued Saturday. Dawson Road Maintenance is asking motorists to watch for crews and equipment working throughout the area. (Dawson Road Maintenance photo/Facebook)
Highway 20 reopens between Anahim Lake and Bella Coola after winter storm Friday

“We appreciate your patience as we continue to clear wood debris and widen sections of the road.”

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

Most Read