Valley nurse hoping to raise awareness after experiencing long-term side effects from COVID-19

Posted at 3:44 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 20:52:23-05

PHOENIX — A Phoenix nurse, who took care of COVID patients and contracted the virus herself, is still experiencing symptoms six months later.

Sandy Iskandar hasn't been able to go back to work at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix since she got COVID in June.

She was never hospitalized, but she's been dealing with a series of symptoms ever since.

"I have this feeling inside like my body is vibrating," she said. "Most recently, I've had cognitive issues where I have a very bad short-term memory, I lose words to finish a sentence, I have a hard time focusing and concentrating at times."

Iskandar said they're unpredictable. She can go for several days feeling fine and then wake up with a debilitating headache or fatigue.

"Another day you wake up and your vision is really blurry," said Iskandar. "She's so random it really makes you feel like you're going a little bit crazy."

Dr. Murtaza Akhter is an emergency physician at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix and at Valleywise Health.

He said there's isn't enough data yet, but they've already seen people come in with lingering side effects from COVID-19. He said some people are still dealing with cough or shortness of breath, while others have cognitive issues and what they call "brain fog."

"When they don't have quite as sharp of memory, aren't quite as quick with recollecting certain events, and we think this is inflammation from the virus itself," said Dr. Akhter.

He said it's not extremely rare for viruses to cause inflammation or lingering effects even after the disease is gone. He also pointed to early research that shows that COVID is seven times more likely to cause stroke in patients than the flu.

"One of the thoughts is maybe some people are having a little bit of ischemia decrease oxygen to the brain and it's not registering as a stroke, but then they're having those foggy effects afterward," Akhter said.

Right now--there is no treatment, just a lot of questions.

Iskandar looks forward to the day she can get back to work.

"I used to be able to multitask five or six things at the time and still have more on the radar and someday now I'm lucky to get through any normal activity as daily living," she said.