Other than the economic losses, one of the major crises the world has to deal with in the coming years will be caring for COVID-19 survivors.
Many among the illest will possibly emerge with debilitating infirmities, and such people will present significant challenges to the health sector.
In most of the places, like N.Y., which was the hub of the virus, the surge of Covid-19 patients is declining, but in its wake, another wave is raising its head, they are non-other than COVID-19 survivors.
Those who survived are suffering severe medical problems that started taxing the resources of rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and other medical providers and facilities.
In the coming weeks and months, these patients will tell us their “survival” stories, right now, nothing can be said, as we have plenty of data on rates of death and survival of the coronavirus, but not much data on the quality of endurance.
From the limited data about COVID survivors that we have in hand, we can say that those ventilated and critically ill patients that have spent weeks in intensive-care units raises significant concerns and queries.
Biologically, patients who often end up on ventilators, have to go through the excessive medications, the pain of tongue depressor that thrust down their mouth 24/7 for a week or so, immobility, and extreme muscle atrophy.
According to early studies, around 90 percent of Covid-19 patients, those on ventilators, develop acute kidney injury, among which, a quarter of them need renal replacement therapy such as dialysis.
To make matters worse, patients who end up in intensive care units for extended periods also develop the post-intensive-care syndrome, which includes cognitive, muscular, neurological problems, and / or PTSD; such issues can last months and even for years. In Britain, about a third of Covid-19 patients in I.C.U.s remained there after 20 days post recovered, as they were at high risk for these conditions.
Add to that, many COVID patients develop acute respiratory distress syndrome, which includes building up fluid in the tiny air sacs of the lungs, which reduces the oxygen when reached to the bloodstream and the organs.
In such conditions, all ARDS patients develop significant neurocognitive deficits, such as impaired attention, concentration, and memory.
In up to 20 percent of such patients, these problems exist for five years, and according to Intensive Care Medicine, depression and PTSD also get prevalent.
Not to stretch, but many of these Covid-19 patients are likely to face debilitating infirmities that will cause significant challenges for the healthcare, sadly another resurgence of the coronavirus is still expected to brace later this year.
According to three public health experts at Harvard, 40 percent of the country would be infected in the wake of the pandemic, 20 million will be hospitalized, and nearly 4.5 million will require intensive care.
How many will suffer from this unknown chronic, disabling conditions that we all call it a post-COVID-19 syndrome, requiring care and rehab in health care facilities or at home, is still unknown.
One of the shortcomings of our public health response to the pandemic — other than the lack of enough testing and contact tracing — is the failure to collect and synthesize sufficient data to care for such patients. What we do know, their number will likely be significant.
How will we go away with that?
Usually, hospitals should discharge such patients to longer-term rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, or long-term acute-care hospitals. But, these institutions are also packed to the capacity and often don’t want to accept Covid-19 patients, who could still be infectious.
That’s why some of these patients remain in hospitals, using resources that could be used for other Covid-19 patients or people with severe conditions like cancer, diabetes, etc., who have to postpone treatment due to the pandemic.
And those who are being sent home may develop significant physical or cognitive impairments, preventing them from continuing their life.
Unfortunately, the needs of Covid-19 survivors are the least addressed. They have given little attention to; actually, we are not prepared to handle them. Even families of survivors are often unaware of the burdens they will have to face in the coming future.
Vulnerable populations, including the uninsured, poor, homeless, undocumented, mentally ill, and those unable to get health care facilities, face added obstacles.
Many politicians, including Pakistanis, have already delayed responding to the pandemic, hoping that it was a myth; we hope they will not make that mistake again.