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

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
81 new cases of COVID-19 detected in Interior Health Friday

One additional staff member at Kelowna long-term care home tests positive, no new deaths

Interior Health says Salmo’s COVID-19 cases have been contained. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Interior Health: Salmo’s COVID-19 cases are contained

Every person who tested positive has recovered

The Village of Salmo has told Cody Puckett and Ashley Nelson that clearing land at this property doesn’t constitute building a property according to a bylaw. Photo: Submitted
Work in progress? Salmo family, village at odds over property construction

Cody Puckett says he’s being evicted from his own land, which the village disputes

Interior Health has set up a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar doctors and mayor urge residents to take COVID-19 seriously as cases are confirmed in the city

“Your doctors would like you to understand we do now have Covid cases here”

Finn Lydon. Photo: Submitted
UPDATE: Winlaw boy reported missing has been found

Finn Lydon was was located last evening

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

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

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PHSA bought faulty respirators; spent money on catering, renovations: Dix

Such spending included ‘unnecessary, unbudgeted renovations’ to the authority’s headquarters in Vancouver

Most Read