PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Arizona State University is working with Valley hospitals and clinics to help Arizonans suffering from long-haul symptoms after contracting COVID-19. "It's a project which involves many clinical partners across the state so we're working with pretty much all, or almost all the major clinical groups across the state to do this," explained Neil Woodbury, vice president for research of ASU's Knowledge Enterprise team. "It's very important because you can't do this in isolation. You have to do this broadly across the whole group."

Woodbury says a big part of the project is trying to understand what is going on with people who had COVID-19 and maintain or develop symptoms beyond COVID-19 and have persisted. There is a vast array of long-haul symptoms, such as neurological problems, issues with lungs or even psychological symptoms.

"We don't really understand at this point either why they manifest in some people and not others--what's the role of the virus, if any at this point?" Woodbury said. "Trying to understand what is active and what is just things that are leftover we need to deal with, all of those things are still really quite unknown at this point."

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Michelle Villegas-Gold, who oversees Health and Clinical Partnerships at ASU Knowledge Enterprise, says being in touch with long haulers will be key in their research and getting them help.

"One of the efforts of the research study that we're working on, or trying to work on, is being able to take all of that data and bring it together and then create broader understandings based on that data," said Villegas-Gold. "We can actually look at all the data together and be able to say, this is not only related to this but caused by this, and that's not something we can do until we do these larger, more scientific kinds of studies."

The researchers submitted a $100 million proposal to the National Institute of Health to approach this problem in Arizona on a large scale. They hope to hear back in a couple of weeks whether they receive the full grant or at least a portion of it. In the meantime, they say they're working with local clinical groups to see how they can help right now.

"At ASU, we don't have a medical school or one affiliated hospital necessarily but one of the benefits of that is we can serve as a connector, and we can support many different hospital systems and efforts," said Villegas-Gold.

One long hauler says treatment can't come soon enough. "I'm optimistic about the future. I just wish it would come sooner," said Pamela Russell. She contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 and since then has dealt with long-lasting symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue. While battling the virus, she wrote a book called "The Diary of the Black Pearl" which talks about her journey and other research and data about the virus.

Pamela Russell

Pamela Russell contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 and since then has dealt with long-lasting symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue. 

"I wanted to educate a lot of people like myself, who are millennials, and really weren't taking this very seriously as they should," Russell said. "I really want the younger population to know that even though you're healthy, things can happen and even with the new variants that are coming, this is a way to be proactive."

 

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