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'It changed my life,' COVID-19 long-hauler symptoms reduce after being a part of local recovery study

It’s a two-step treatment plan. Patients take one pill to heal the damaged nervous system caused by COVID-19. Then a different pill, daily, to reverse inflammation

GERMANTOWN, Tenn. — Memphis Doctor Debra Turner with Stern Cardiovascular Foundation said there is hope for COVID-19 long-haulers and her patient Annitta Rothenberger is proof. Rothenberger was diagnosed with COVID-19 in December. Brain fog, extreme shortness of breath, excruciating joint pain, and an increased heart rate was the lingering symptoms she battled for the past eight months. 

"I wasn't my normal self," she said. "I took a lot of naps, I didn't go anywhere, it was just too hard to go anywhere." 

But now, she is starting to feel like her old self again. 

"My heart rate does not go up when I am sitting down anymore, like it was.” 

Rothenberger is one of 67 post-COVID patients in Turner's COVID-19 recovery study. Rothenberger started receiving treatment for her symptoms in June and said her symptoms started to reverse just two weeks after being on Dr. Turner's recovery plan. 

“My shortness of breath, well I am talking in a lot of sentences I feel like my normal self.  I am going and doing the fun things I use to do," Rothenberger said.

Turner is an autonomic specialist at Stern Cardiovascular Foundation treating COVID long-haulers. She started gathering data from patients in February.  She said more than 50% of her patients are improving. 

"We support the cholinergic system and then we put in place a treatment plan to reverse the inflammation that caused the damage in the first place," Turner said. 

Turner said her treatment plan is healing people quickly with less medication. It’s a two-step treatment plan. Patients take one pill to heal the damaged nervous system caused by COVID-19. Then a different pill, daily, to reverse inflammation left behind by the virus. She said some people have experienced stomach aches, but she said switches treatment plans to make the patient feel comfortable. 

"The greatest reduction in symptoms we are seeing with this approach is more than 30% reduction in chest pain and about 16% reduction in palpitations. 

Rothenberger said Dr. Turner's treatment gives her hope that she doesn't have to live with COVID symptoms forever. 

"It's been wonderful, it's changed my life," Rothenberger said. 

Turner said there are no waiting lists to be treated.  Anyone 18 years and older who is a COVID long-hauler can make an appointment with her.