Gregg Garfield survived COVID-19 after being hospitalized for two months. However, he emerged missing most of his fingers, offering a warning to others.
“My hands are never gonna be the same. I don’t have fingers anymore,” he told KTLA. “This can happen to you.”
Garfield became ill following a ski trip to Italy in February. He spent 64 days at Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank, including one month on a ventilator. He was the hospital’s first COVID-19 patient. Doctors gave him a 1% chance of survival, as COVID-19 led to further issues, including MRSA, sepsis and kidney and liver failure. His lungs collapsed four times.
He was released from the hospital in May and has since made a full recovery, with the exception of his fingers. He lost all of his right fingers and most of his left due to the way COVID-19 can affect blood flow. Surgeons will attempt to replace them with prosthetic fingers.
Garfield’s sister set up a GoFundMe to cover his medical bills. Insurance covered the bulk of his $2 million-hospitalization, but it won’t cover his prosthetics.
A lot of the discourse around COVID-19, especially among those who refuse to take social distancing and wearing a mask seriously, is that most people will survive the virus. But even if you survive, you might experience long-lasting consequences or extended stays in the hospital, even if you’re young.
Thirty-two-year-old Inglewood resident Michael Orantes spent 90 days in the hospital after contracting the virus, most likely while on a trip to Spain. He still needs help to breathe.
CNN also reported on a 28-year-old COVID-19 survivor who fell ill in March and, as of July, is still experiencing brain fog, difficulty concentrating and extreme fatigue. He has trouble with short-term memory, reading, writing and speaking, and declined to use his full name in the interview for professional reasons.
According to the CDC, a survey of 292 people who tested positive for COVID-19 found that 35% of respondents weren’t feeling back to normal after an average of 16 days from their testing date. Of those, 26% were 18-34 years old, 32% were 35-49 and 47% were 50 or older.
Sometimes the lasting effects are minimal but still noticeable. Julia Wick, a reporter with the L.A. Times, recently tweeted that although she’s three months recovered from the virus, her sense of taste is “still totally off.” Several others responded with similar accounts, including a missing sense of smell, gastrointestinal issues and other difficulties, even weeks or months after recovering.
Dr. Luis Ostrosky-Zeichner, a professor of medicine at the University of Texas McGovern Medical School, told CNN that about one in five patients gets a more severe form of COVID-19.
“About 80% are going to experience a mild or asymptomatic version of COVID. It’s the other 20% that we’re worried about,” he said.
No one knows how sick they might become, or for how long. We know chickenpox can lie dormant and lead to shingles in the future. But we don’t know that much about COVID-19 because it hasn’t been around long enough for health experts to figure out what long-term conditions it might cause. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is studying that now, which you can read about here.