Affinia Healthcare ‘Long-COVID’ Practice Marks One-Year Milestone
Almost three years into the pandemic, most areas of public life have returned somewhat to a pre-COVID normal. For some who were diagnosed with COVID-19, their return to ‘normal’ has yet to materialize.
Some who contracted COVID-19 still struggle with symptoms, a condition commonly referred to as long COVID. Recognizing that there was more once the initial symptoms subsided, Affinia Healthcare established a dedicated care team to help those individuals with treatment for this unique condition. The team marked its one-year milestone in November.
Those who experience long COVID conditions suffer from symptoms like excessive fatigue, depression, memory loss, severe and persistent body aches and pain. Affinia Healthcare’s long-COVID care team has served 37 patients in its year of service. Like so many things associated with COVID, there are still many unknowns, even though society has learned how to better manage exposure and treatment.
Dr. Catherine Moore is one of the physicians working with Affinia Healthcare patients experiencing long COVID symptoms. One of her patients was a certified nurse’s assistant working in a local nursing home when the CNA was diagnosed with COVID-19.
“She said that at least 50 of the residents she was working with died of COVID in those first few months (of the pandemic),” Dr. Moore said. “She was diagnosed in May 2020 with COVID, followed the protocols for quarantining, then went back to work. She was still having headaches and fatigue, but also was experiencing short-term memory loss, sleeplessness, and severe muscle tension.”
This patient continued to suffer with these symptoms but, to keep her mind off of them, she picked up additional shifts at work. She mentioned her health concerns to friends and family, but they dismissed them.
Dr. Moore says the patient returned to Affinia Healthcare for a wellness exam and mentioned her symptoms to the physician. The physician set up an appointment for her to see the long-COVID care team, which includes physician assistants, occupational therapists, nurses, chiropractors and behavioral health professionals.
“We were able to help her process what she had experienced, not just with her physical symptoms but also what she saw in her role as a CNA,” Dr. Moore explained. “She talked about the horror of seeing her patients die. She shared the frustration of pervasive symptoms that no one could see. She sobbed, because she finally felt validated in her experience.”
The long-COVID care team is also connecting this patient with Affinia Healthcare behavioral health professionals to “help process the trauma” of what she has experienced.
When North St. Louis City and County was experiencing a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, Affinia Healthcare took the lead in 2020 and hit the streets to set up testing sites in these communities. Affinia Healthcare – with 12 locations in St. Louis City and County – continues to offer testing and vaccines on-site and through partnerships with community organizations and public service agencies. Affinia Healthcare also provides COVID-19 vaccinations, and the monoclonal antibody infusion therapy for patients who have mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and an elevated risk of complications.
“The COVID pandemic exposed what many of us in the public health sector were already familiar with – the drastic health disparities that affect poor, black, and brown communities,” said Dr. Kendra Holmes, CEO and President for Affinia Healthcare. “The pandemic also provided healthcare providers an opportunity to be creative and more strategic in how we deliver our services to better meet the needs of all in our communities.”
As the medical profession turns the corner in diagnosis and prevention, listening to and learning from those with long-COVID can help patients return to true normalcy.
“Once a patient understands that they are not alone, they are not crazy, and there is some biological mechanism behind all of this, then they can begin the work of healing,” said Dr. Moore.
Dr. Alan Freeman, former Affinia Healthcare CEO and President, is proud of the initiative staff have shown in caring for patients, especially in light of the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“Caring for patients where they are is a trademark of the Affinia Healthcare professionals on our staff,” Dr. Freeman commented. “COVID-19 presents significant challenges for patients and healthcare professionals, and our staff, once again, has demonstrated its expertise and compassion to help those in need of care.”
If there are individuals experiencing long-COVID symptoms, please call 314-814-8700 to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider.
CAPTION: Members of the Affinia Healthcare long-COVID treatment team at the N. Florissant location. From left, Dr. Patrick Battaglia, chiropractor; Tenika Porter, LPN; Bernadette Sheffield, Occupational Therapist; Dr. Catherine Moore, Assistant Medical Director, Family Practice Physician; Dr. Jeffery Lin, Family Medicine Physician; and Rajeev John, MSW, LCSW, Manager, Trauma Informed Care.