LINGERING

Long Covid: Temporary blindness, lung damage, fatigue, 'boiling blood'

Dr Ndritu was hospitalised with the coronavirus for two weeks, but discharge wasn't the end of his troubles

In Summary

• He was treated for two weeks before discharge but doctor says the effects of virus lingered on, though he is improving.

• His is a story of 'long Covid' with effects that persist though he is no longer infected.

Dr Joseph Ndiritu speaks to the Star at his lab at Kenyatta National Hospital.
LONG COVID: Dr Joseph Ndiritu speaks to the Star at his lab at Kenyatta National Hospital.
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

We're still learning about the long-term effects of Covid, in some cases very long. It's known as 'long Covid' and the effects are not pleasant.

Dr Joseph Ndiritu contracted Covid-19 in April last year. An experience he doesn't want to forget and he's still reminded of daily as he is finally able to work in his clinic along Ngong Road, Nairobi.

He could not eat, he had difficulty in breathing, his joints and muscles were on fire. He had headaches 100 times worse than normal; he suffered explosive, burning diarrhoea.

“It was nasty. You have this headache and you can’t even open your eyes. You can't turn because the headache moves with the turn."

That was in the hospital. He was treated for two weeks and discharged; the effects of the virus lingered.

“It lingers on in the sense that you are moving around, you look normal but you feel this weird sensation in the body generally. I felt like boiled water was flowing in my veins, it was not like blood and it happened for weeks,” Ndiritu adds.

Though he has been wearing glasses since primary school and never had any persistent infections, he now has vision problems.

At one point at home, he woke up and could not see. Everything was dark.

“This may be connected with the pandemic, maybe, maybe not," he says.

Now it's better, though he uses eye drops constantly, the pain is abating.

 

Dr Joseph Ndiritu speaks to the Star at his lab at the Kenyatta National Hospital.
COVID WOES: Dr Joseph Ndiritu speaks to the Star at his lab at the Kenyatta National Hospital.
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Dr Ndiritu says with little research, chances are high that many people may be suffering after Covid, including post-traumatic effects.

For instance, just few weeks ago, they received a former Covid patient with an eye growth that will not go away. He's on medication but surgery must be necessary.

Dr Ndiritu says when one wears a  mask, as you breath, the air goes upwards, spectacles turns misty and air goes into the eyes. This could cause infection.

“I am using antibiotics, steroids, artificial tears, a whole assembly and when you are using them it clears your eyes and everything is good.

"But if you don't use it for a week, the problems resurface. The eyes get red and there are horrible secretions," Ndiritu said.

Scientists are unsure about the effects months or years after the initial illness, but some research shows that people with more severe illness may be more likely to experience complications.

A study conducted in August 2020 found that people with severe Covid-19 are often discharged with signs of pulmonary fibrosis, a type of lung damage.

Another study conducted in June 2020 showed as many as 30 per cent of people hospitalised with Covid-19 had signs that the illness had affected their heart muscle.

The researchers speculate that in some people, Covid-19 may also cause myocarditis, inflammation of this muscle.

Similarly, a study conducted in April 2020 found that people with severe disease were more likely to experience neurological manifestations, such as dizziness, nerve pain, and impaired consciousness.

(Edited by V. Graham)