Dr. Neville Berkman

Preliminary studies estimate that anywhere between 10 and 88 percent of those who have recovered from COVID-19 are contending with debilitating chronic conditions, writes Wendy Elliman in the March/April issue of Hadassah Magazine.

Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem is addressing the situation head-on at its post-COVID-19 outpatient clinic, directed by Dr. Neville Berkman, who also heads up Hadassah’s Institute of Pulmonology. Dr. Berkman was asked to head the clinic because, early on, patients who suffered long-term illness complained of respiratory problems. However, it became clear quickly that the syndrome called long COVID was affecting patients’ hearts, muscles, and/or digestive systems. Some patients also experience neurological symptoms ranging from fatigue, dizziness, headache, and loss of smell or taste to cognitive dysfunction and sleep and memory disturbances.

Hadassah’s long COVID-19 team, comprising a range of specialists, sees about 15 patients a week. Among the clinic’s first patients was a 69-year-old with diabetes. He thought he had recovered from COVID-19, but, 12 weeks after he left the hospital, he experienced life-threatening blood clots in his lungs and crippling weakness in his arms and legs. The clinic’s pulmonologists are treating the clots, physical and occupational therapists are addressing his muscle weakness and endocrinologists are stabilizing his diabetes.

“These aren’t complications that we see after comparable illnesses, such as acute influenza or bacterial pneumonia,” says Dr. Berkman, “We don’t know yet whether they result from the virus even though it’s no longer present or from an aberrant or overactive immune response, something akin to post-traumatic stress syndrome, a chronic fatigue-like illness or something else entirely.” Read the full article in Hadassah Magazine.