UIC doctor seeks grant from NIH to study COVID long-haulers in vulnerable communities

CHICAGO (WLS) — COVID long-haulers experience lingering symptoms, side-effects and related health problems long after they have technically recovered from the coronavirus infection. Angela Samuel is one of them.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” she said.

The Southeast Side native ended up in the hospital. She thought she would be there for about a week; she ended up staying nearly two months.

“My organs began to fail, my lungs totally collapsed, and I had a trache put in my neck and I was connected to the ventilator,” she recalled.

Two times the 54-year-old’s family were told she wouldn’t make it, but she did pull through. And although the worst symptoms are gone, she is still not back to her old self.

“I have brain fog, I have fatigue, sometimes depression, shortness of breath, sleepless nights,” Samuel described.

Researchers estimate nearly half of all people who have been infected with COVD continue to experience symptoms, and are “long-haulers.”

The National Institutes of Health have launched a $1 billion initiative to figure out why some people are not recovering from COVID.

Dr. Jerry Krishnan, a pulmonary physician at UIC, is hoping for $100 million of that money. He submitted his proposal to NIH to study long COVID in vulnerable communities and answer many underlying questions.

“We need to understand, why are some people not recovering?” he said. “Why do some recover more quickly and others don’t? Are there different types of problems that they’re facing and how can we identify treatments for that or preventative strategies?”

Dr. Krishnan hopes to find out at the end of April whether the NIH will grant his proposal. If so, his study would take place over the next few years.