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East Texas doctors working to treat ‘COVID long-haulers’

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 5:41 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2021 at 10:30 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Dr. Renee Hebbeler-Clark has been busy treating not only a growing number of COVID-19 patients, but also those who have recovered from the virus and are still experiencing lingering health effects. She’s one of a team of doctors who have seen patients since the hospital’s COVID-19 recovery clinic opened in May.

“We’re actually seeing everything from hair loss, persistent smell and taste abnormalities to where patients have had continued, ongoing weight loss because they’re not wanting to eat due to the smell or taste abnormalities that they have still six to eight months out,” Dr. Hebbeler-Clark said.

For some, the long-term effects have become a part of everyday life.

“Somewhat frustrating. Because you want to be able to help alleviate symptoms that are present and the only thing that we have right now is what is technically like smell therapy, meaning you use things that have really potent fragrances, may it be like a citrus base, like orange, lemon, or something very tart that you can actually identify to try to do individual smells almost similar to like what you would do with aromatherapy,” Dr. Hebbeler-Clark said.

Among the most serious long-term effects are cognitive issues − more commonly referred to as a ‘brain fog,’ where people develop memory problems or struggle to think clearly.

“Young patients not being able to go back to work, not being able to focus on maybe a grocery list, being able to their daily chores at home or care for themselves or their family. It’s quite severe in a good number of younger patients, and when I say younger, I’m meaning like 30s and 40s,” Dr. Hebbeler-Clark said.

Dr. Hebbeler-Clark says the best way to avoid these symptoms entirely is simple.

“Please get vaccinated. May it be for yourself, your family, unfortunately the patients that we have now, they’re all young functioning humans. They’re not with a bunch of comorbidities. Those are your neighbors, those are your teachers, those are your pastors at church, those are the patients that are coming in,” Dr. Hebbeler-Clark said.

For more information or to schedule an appointment at UT Health East Texas’ COVID-19 recovery clinic, call 903-877-2899

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