CHARLES TOWN – Corey Layton was first diagnosed 21 months ago with COVID-19 when little was known about the long-term health
effects of the virus.
Even now, Layton, 45, still isn’t free from COVID’s hold on him, he said.
Layton suffers from what doctors call “Long COVID” syndrome.
According to medical experts at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, the syndrome involves various COVID symptoms persisting for six months or more after infection.
The symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, brain fog and difficulty concentrating, to mention just a few, according to Dr. Connie Smith, infectious disease specialist at WVU Medicine East, the hospital network that includes Jefferson Medical Center in Ranson.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that at least 10 percent of the people infected with COVID may have developed some form of Long COVID syndrome. As many as five million people worldwide could be affected, according to that estimate.
Unfortunately, at this time, there is not much the medical community can do to alleviate such lingering effects from COVID infections, Smith reported. “There are no treatments for Long COVID syndrome,” she said. “We can provide supportive care only. Physical therapy may be helpful.”
In Layton’s case, his ongoing symptoms interfere with his ability to hold a job. He has been living with his parents in Charles Town because he hasn’t been able to financially support himself since his infection.
Previously an 18-wheeler driver, Layton believes he must have contracted the virus at a truck-stop convenience store. “Doctors told me that must have been the case since no one around me had the virus,” he said.
“I just didn’t feel well,” he said about his initial symptoms. “I had a headache, fever and lost my sense of smell and couldn’t taste anything.”
Layton initially quarantined himself in a Martinsburg motel for 10 days because he didn’t want his son Donovan, 19, to catch whatever virus he thought he had. He had numerous medical examinations, but no doctor could identify what was causing his medical troubles, he said.
It took six days for doctors to determine he had COVID. So early on during the pandemic, he said, Berkeley Medical Center had not prepared a floor strictly for treating COVID patients.
“We knew he had COVID,” recalled Deborah Layton, Corey’s mother. “I have relatives in the medical field in New York City where the pandemic was really bad. They saw COVID cases.”
Because Layton’s parents are older—Deborah is 67, and her husband Derwin is 68—they didn’t feel able to visit him at the motel. However, other family members dropped off food and other items for him.
Four days after his diagnosis, Layton had a very high fever. Eventually, he became so weak and ill that an ambulance crew had to take him to Berkeley Medical Center.
In addition to his physical symptoms, Layton said he experienced severe depression and anxiety. He became so anxious that his doctors had him strapped to his hospital bed. His struggles against the restraints injured his shoulder’s rotator cuff and wrists, which ultimately required surgery.
His anxiety became so intense and debilitating that, at one point, he was placed in what Layton describes as an induced “coma” and put on a ventilator.
Layton was hospitalized for about a month. Afterward, he was sent to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown for additional surgery on his trachea after doctors placed an intubation tube down his throat to allow a ventilator to help him breathe.
“I had to learn how to walk all over again,” Layton recalled of his hospital experience. “I had no strength.”
Layton still goes to physical rehabilitation about three times a week. He said he has chronic joint pain throughout his body. He continues to have problems breathing, experiences tremendous fatigue and struggles to keep mentally focused, he said.
He tried to return to work as a truck driver in August, but he said he was let go from his job because he couldn’t put in enough hours.
He feels still “sluggish” most days, he explained. However, he does try to keep moving as much as he can by taking walks around his parent’s neighborhood.
Layton acknowledges his future is uncertain since this new medical condition has so many unknown answers to questions associated with it.
“I try to keep positive,” he said. “I stay around positive people.”