By: Mallika Rao
While the COVID-19 virus began to ravage Nuvance Health’s New York and Connecticut facilities, another mysterious medical issue arrived not too long after.
As the senior vice president and system head of the Neuroscience Institute, Dr. Paul Wright quickly noticed how patients fully recovered from COVID-19 reported other physical and mental health conditions.
“We did not know how to address this,” he said. “People were saying they could not think straight.”
Patients reported being unable to concentrate at home and work. Their condition later became referred to as brain fog, a symptom of long COVID.
“As it became much more of a norm, people started paying attention to it more,” he said.
There were also reports of sudden anxiety and depression in long COVID patients.
“There’s never enough research,” said Dr. Wright. “People are sharing ideas to centers and doing what they can to see how we can find what causes stress and anxiety.”
Together with the behavioral health, cardiology, integrative medicine and primary care departments, the Neuroscience Institute is working to further research long hauler COVID.
Nuvance Health’s COVID Recovery Program aims to address the conditions that emerge long after a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients meet with a team of specialists for one-on-one visits to treat their condition head-on.
Dr. Wright already sees promise from the effects of this program.
“I do believe there is hope,” she said. “A patient we had was a civil servant. I sat there and spoke to her, I answered her questions. Now she is back at work.”
“Does she feel back to complete normalcy? No,” he goes on to say, “but she went from calling me angry to saying she is doing better.”
Keeping Things in Perspective
It is optimism that has guided Dr. Wright during one of the most harrowing health crises in history.
“We do not go to healthcare because of the 9 to 5 aspect,” he said. “You want to make a difference.”
Dr. Wright compares the surge of COVID-19 in hospitals to serving in the military during war.
“You are training and then finally you get to go to war, and that is what this was,” he said.
He is grateful for the way Nuvance Health came together across all of its locations to brace the novel virus.
“Nobody knew, but what we did was come together as a community to treat patients,” he said.
The hardest part of the pandemic for Dr. Wright was not being able to see his family for six weeks. He felt concern that he might infect his household if he came home at the height of the pandemic.
Another tough moment for him was seeing young patients like those with long COVID suffering from strokes and other critical conditions.
“It was eye-opening,” he said. “For those who say it does not exist, we just kept occupying beds with COVID.”
He bristles at the politicization of the disease.
“Healthcare is a national issue we have to address in a collaborative manner,” he said.
This article is part of a series called “On the Frontlines,” where we profile the struggles of those who fought the COVID-19 virus as frontline or essential workers, as they process the toll this pandemic has taken.