SAN ANTONIO — COVID-19 affects people in different ways. The CDC uses the term “post-COVID conditions” to describe health issues that persist more than four weeks after first being infected with the virus. That’s exactly what happened to a San Antonio woman.
Rhoda Pickens is one of many dealing with long-term COVID side effects. At the beginning of her therapy treatments, she was only able to walk to the mailbox in her neighborhood. She has to limit her physical activity.
“Otherwise I get chest pains and it can last a day or two. Then it’s hard to do anything else. I have to really watch what all I do,” said Pickens.
Pickens contracted COVID back in June 2020 and never dreamed she would still be dealing with the side effects this long after. After two weeks of dealing with the virus and thinking she was getting better, she tried to get back to her routine.
“I started walking again and I got tingling and numbness in my hands. I got chest tightness, and it started radiating down my arms,” said Pickens.
That’s when she knew something wasn’t right. Pickens looked into a post COVID clinic where she met her physical therapist, Renee DeAngelis, with Rehab Without Walls.
“For long COVID, it really is really is a lot of trial and error because every single patient is different. Every symptom that you have… that you present with, another patient might not present with,” DeAngelis said.
Rhoda now wears an O2 ring to monitor her oxygen constantly.
“We really had to work on breathing technique to get it back up, the oxygen back up,” DeAngelis said.
Her oxygen would drop significantly after her short walks. Pickens sees a cardiologist.
“I’ve got a heart monitor on here too. It’s still unclear what’s going on and that’s one of the things that’s really hard about this,” said Pickens.
Pickens said her doctors asked her to write down everything. Her journals are full of detailed symptoms. She also does breathing exercises three times a day.
“It’s not in your head. If you’ve had COVID and it’s doing weird things and you’re having weird symptoms, COVID does that,” said Pickens.
Pickens wanted to help others going through the same situation by sharing her story, the way support groups have helped show her she’s not alone. Support and faith have kept her going.
“God has been my lifeline and my faith in God has really gotten me through these trials,” said Pickens.
She said she’s hopeful she’ll get back to her normal life the way it was before she got COVID.