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

A rider crosses a “skinny” on the newly opened trail known as 90s Jank, built within the Hartland system by volunteers with the South Island Mountain Bike Society. (Youtube/MTB Matt)
Mountain bikers celebrate first new trail in years on Saanich’s Mount Work

90s Jank trail a product of licence agreement between CRD and mountain bike society

Fire crews respond to the 3500-block of Blanshard Street in Saanich on April 16. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
UPDATED: BC Hydro crews repairing failed electrical equipment in Saanich

Vernon Avenue reopen to traffic following closure

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
Extinction Rebellion activists march from Vancouver to Victoria this weekend

The four-day trek ends at the B.C. legislature Monday, protest province’s environmental policy

The hiring of out-of-province workers by the Canadian Red Cross to staff the vaccination centre in Langford has raised eyebrows. (Black Press Media file photo)
Red Cross hires out-of-province workers to staff Langford vaccination centre

Staffer worries local jobs weren’t offered to local people

The District of Saanich announced April 12 that the Cedar Hill Golf Course clubhouse would remain closed for at least six months for repairs after a flood on Feb. 14 caused by faulty sprinklers. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Faulty sprinklers to blame for second Cedar Hill Golf Course clubhouse closure in just over a year

Saanich facility facing six-month shutdown for flood repairs, course not impacted

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Island woman on fence about vaccine prompted by brother’s death

Leela Harrop of Comox says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
New campgrounds coming to B.C. parks as part of $83M provincial boost

This season alone, 185 campsites are being added to provincial parks, says Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Most Read