Long COVID treatment spurred Greenwich native’s return to CT after LA doctor dismissed concerns

GREENWICH – Long COVID compelled Melissa Wynne, a Los Angeles resident raised in Greenwich, to return to her Connecticut roots and enjoy her recovery time in the comfort of her parents’ home before pushing her to a style of more adventurous life.

Wynne, a documentary producer, fell ill in April 2020 and developed symptoms that seemed to get “worse and weirder”, she said. She believed she had COVID-19 in April and confirmed her suspicions with a positive antibody test months later.

She documented chest pain and pressure, difficulty breathing, hormonal issues, new allergic reactions, nerve pain and anxiety stemming from her illness.

An estimated 10% of those who contract COVID-19 will show symptoms beyond 12 weeks, according to data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics. There are studies showing both higher and lower prevalence of long COVIDs.

Wynne sought help in Los Angeles but received only cavalier advice from specialists. The neurologist who examined her for the tingling sensation in her hands, face, eyes and stomach thought she might have carpal tunnel or anxiety.

“I don’t expect a doctor to understand, like, the ins and outs of a long COVID to a point where COVID is a whole new virus, but I expect to be treated with respect and to to be really raw,” Wynne said of her frustration.

She asked a cardiologist, stunned by her difficulty breathing, to order a COVID-19 antibody test. Wynne thought it would help convince doctors that COVID-19 had damaged her body, but even the positive antibody test was met with skepticism, she said.

Wynne did not experience loss of taste or smell, infamous signs that separate COVID-19 from a cold. A pulmonologist, another doctor Wynne paid to see, said that without loss of taste or smell he could not make a diagnosis.

As recently as June 25, 2020, Jay Butler, deputy director of infectious diseases at the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters he didn’t know “whether or not (the persistent symptoms) could be something that could persist for more than a few months.”

Now, long COVID is recognized as a disability in Connecticut, and the National Institutes of Health has launched research to learn more about the disease.

Wynne, frustrated by the lack of help in Los Angeles, flew to Connecticut in August 2020 to live with her parents. It was the first flight of many that year between the two coasts.

She had just started a new job and living with her parents allowed her to work full-time remotely and focus on her health.

“It’s not because I failed and I have to go back to live with my parents or anything; it’s actually something I want to do,” Wynne said. of his decision to return to Connecticut. “I felt very comforted to be at home, and it took a lot of relief from having to take care of the kitchen.”

By October, she knew she wanted more time with her parents. Wynne moved out of the house she shared with roommates in Los Angeles and stayed in Connecticut from November until the end of April.

She continued to see doctors but found the best relief by receiving lymphatic massage, a gentle massage intended to reduce swelling related to fluid produced by the lymph nodes. There do not appear to be any studies on the effects of lymphatic massage on long COVID, although research suggests that massage can treat fatigue during a patient’s recovery.

Ultimately, Wynne’s COVID-19 vaccination gave her the biggest boost toward recovery.

“Once I was vaccinated, my symptoms were greatly reduced, pretty much immediately. I had had this feeling of pressure in my chest the whole time I was sick. And within about 24 hours, this feeling had been relieved,” she said.

Other “long haulers” in long online COVID communities have reported similar results from vaccines, she said. Yale Medical Researchers launched a study in 2021 on the effect of COVID-19 on long COVID; the conclusions have not yet been published.

Wynne received her vaccination early when she volunteered at a vaccination site in Los Angeles, which prompted her to emotionally return to the West Coast.

“I had such a great time in Connecticut. It felt like a great opportunity to spend a lot of family time and cook with my mom and really relax,” she said.

Wynne signed a lease for an apartment in Los Angeles. And when production wrapped on the show she was working on, Wynne applied for an opportunity that would encourage her to travel.

“I wanted to start working in the world again, like in the field production, and start coming back out there. I felt safe having been vaccinated and just wanted to work on the site and stuff,” Wynne said.

Now she’s been “working non-stop” and traveling a lot since October.

Wynne still doesn’t feel quite back to her pre-COVID self. She battles brain fog, “hormonal stuff,” acid reflux, and new food sensitivities.

But she hopes spreading awareness of long COVID will lead to more treatment options and, better yet, a cure.

“It wasn’t just people who got sick in the very beginning,” Wynne said. “It’s the people who are getting sick now who are still having problems months later. So it looks like (the long COVID) is something that’s not going away.

annelise.hanshaw@hearstmediact.com

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