‘I still have nightmares’: Patients say they deal with PTSD months after recovering from COVID-19

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Months after they’ve recovered from the COVID-19, some patients still cope with lingering physical symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jessenia Lizarraga of Turlock had been pregnant and in the ICU for weeks with COVID-19. It’s been seven months since she was discharged.

“I did have to be intubated, put on artificial respirator, so that kind of messed with my vocal chords,” Lizarraga said.

Angelo Torres of Stockton had also been sickened by the virus.

His symptoms were relatively mild “‘cause I was really locked down in a way for 27 days,” Torres said.

Even through the worst of it, Lizarraga was able to give birth to her son, Sergio, while she was in a coma.

Both she and Torres are better, but still on the mend.

“I have lung problems. I have a difficult time walking, talking; I get very tired very quick,” Lizzaraga told FOX40.

They also cope with what’s not seen: “a lot of PTSD — I still have nightmares of me waking up at UCSF, being intubated, trying to pull out IVs, cords, PICC lines,” Lizzaraga explained.

Both said they even deal with guilt and worry over infecting others.

“As much as we’re following along with people’s health to make sure that they’re doing well, it’s just as important to follow-up with their emotional well-being,” said Michelle Coble, associate director of behavioral health with Community Medical Centers.

Substance and behavioral experts with Community Medical Centers, or CMC, said that along with the rise of patients dealing with higher anxiety and depression due to the pandemic, there are also families coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, also due to COVID-19.

“[Some families] have a loved one who died from it, and that may cause a lot of the PTSD that they’re dealing with,” said Lei McMiller, CMC’s associate director of substance abuse.

CMC staff tells FOX40 that while many patients may feel isolated, there are ways to help, including meeting with a health professional remotely.

“Mental health has been very important to me; I do have a great doctor who talks to me,” Lizzaraga said.

“The more you take care of yourself, the more you’re going to influence other people around you to take care of themselves and take these viruses and things seriously,” Torres said.

Both Torres and Lizzaraga said they are healing one day at a time with their families by their side.

“Crazy situation… you really appreciate the smaller things in life. I know I do,” Torres said.

Lizzaraga agreed: “Having my baby home, knowing he’s with me, just having everybody together, just healing as a family.”

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