A long road for the long-hauler: COVID-19's mysterious lingering impacts

Posted at 5:33 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 19:44:54-05

PHOENIX — Nearly a year after battling COVID-19, a Valley man is still dealing with health issues of unknown severity, falling into a group of "long haulers" whose symptoms persist.

Derek Moore, 48, told ABC15 he became one of the first known COVID-19 cases in the state last March.

"Your station had [reported] less than a thousand Arizona cases," he said. "I was wondering, am I number one thousand?"

Moore said he has run four Ironman triathlons, as recently as 2016, and has remained active. He told ABC15 he had no major medical issues prior to contracting COVID-19.

Moore never wound up in the hospital during his initial COVID-19 diagnosis but said he did develop symptoms.

"My symptoms at home really were, it was shortness of breath, a little bit of fever," Moore said.

Moore said his symptoms seemed to gradually improve until a heart issue popped up in June.

"All of a sudden one day I am talking to my wife, really not doing anything that would raise my heart rate, and I said to her, 'I think my heart rate is like 150," he said. "It was like my heart was beating out of [my] chest."

Moore underwent an EKG and MRI and said the irregular heartbeats started to become more frequent. He told ABC15 he was ultimately diagnosed with myocarditis or inflammation of the heart.

"My heart had an electrical problem that needed to get corrected," Moore said. "Most likely due, suspicion is, due to COVID causing the inflammation of the heart."

One of Moore's doctors at HonorHealth told ABC15 he had two separate arrhythmias, believed to be caused by the inflammation.

"He is now ten months out from his infection and still obviously has symptoms, and we are seeing that in a rare subset of patients," said Dr. Rahul Doshi with HonorHealth.

Dr. Doshi performed a procedure on Moore in December, called an ablation, to resolve one of the arrhythmias.

"We can identify the critical area, the circuit, the portion that is the critical circuit of the arrhythmia," Dr. Doshi said. "We can buzz it, we can actually have a catheter that delivers high-frequency radio waves and that's our energy source to essentially burn...a little bit of cardiac tissue that's responsible for the arrhythmia."

Prior to the pandemic, Dr. Doshi told ABC15 myocarditis was fairly rare, but the heart condition is an alarming problem that has popped up with some COVID-19 patients.

"We know that this phenomenon can occur, but until [COVID] this was exceedingly rare," he said. "We are seeing a much higher frequency with COVID as compared to other historical viral infections."

Moore's case is one of many that has left doctors with some unanswered questions.

"We obviously are still very much learning what entails these long-haulers, these folks that have persistent symptoms post-COVID," Dr. Doshi said. "We're still learning."

Moore credited his primary care physician as well as his doctors at HonorHealth for catching and treating his heart issues to this point.

"I think it's really important if you can get to the right people, to try and get answers," Moore said.

Moore told ABC15 aside from his lingering heart issue, which his doctor said was related to atrial fibrillation, he is having other symptoms as well. He said he still deals with fatigue, brain fog, trouble sleeping and ringing in his ears.

"I have no answers as to why I'm suffering with these long-term things," he said. "Other people have it and don't have any issues."

Moore isn't sure how long he will be dealing with the multitude of symptoms and the lingering heart problem.

"Am I going to be able to run, swim, bike, lift weights, do everything I was doing prior?" he said. "I have no clue at this point."