PILOT MOUNTAIN, N.C. — "I thank God every day I'm home from the hospital, but I'm not recovered," says Angie Thomas Daoud, who spent 16 days in the hospital battling COVID-19.
She's grappling with the idea she may never feel like her old self.
Six weeks after getting discharged, she still can’t go far without getting winded.
"It's taken me to this point to just be able to navigate the stairs," says Daoud, who lives in Pilot Mountain.
Even that is a big step forward from when she lacked the energy to even leave her bedroom.
Daoud is able to walk her dogs around the house, but doctors don’t want her pushing much farther.
"That’s what they want me to do right now for a week. Then maybe walk up to the side street," Daoud says.
There have already been many appointments for lingering issues, like shortness of breath.
“I got permanent scarring in both lungs from COVID-19 pneumonia,“ she says.
She practices breathing exercises daily to expand her lung capacity.
An MRI is pending with a neurologist to figure out what’s behind the headaches and brain fog.
"Things I’ve done 100 times in my lifetime, I’ll sit there and struggle with it," says Daoud, who's been out of work since her diagnosis in July.
Unexplained rashes led to a dermatologist visit.
What worries Daoud most is her heart. She’s on medication after getting diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.
In other words, her heart isn't pumping enough blood.
Then there’s the mental toll in the form of recurring nightmares of the day she was transferred to the ICU.
“I can still see the face of the doctor and nurse trying to wake me up," Daoud recalls. "When you see that look of fear on professionals' faces, you get scared."
It’s also scary not knowing what after effects will fade and what she might have to cope with for the rest of her life.
"Science unfortunately moves slower than media," says Dr. Matt Belford, assistant professor of cardiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health. "I think we're at the point where if this is really something bad, we'll start seeing that signal soon."
With so much focus placed on death rates and hospitalizations, Daoud hopes coronavirus survivors don’t get left out of the conversation.
"It could be lifetime lingering effects from this. Going forward, we got to start looking at how to support the survivors," Daoud says.