Pain specialist working to help reduce long term symptoms in COVID-19 patients
“It’s not 100% of where I was a year ago before I had COVID but with one injection, it has dramatically changed everything where I can eat again, and I can enjoy foods.”
BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Roughly 40% of people who have had COVID-19 across the world have suffered long-term effects, according to a study by the University of Michigan.
A different study by the Mayo Clinic say most people who have COVID-19 recover within a few weeks. But some people, even those who had mild symptoms of the disease, continue to experience symptoms months after their initial recovery. Symptoms like loss of smell or taste, brain fog, muscle pain or headaches, fatigue, joint and chest pain have been reported to linger for weeks to months after infection.
Researchers are now turning to a procedure that’s been around since the 1920′s that shows promising signs of reducing many of those long-term symptoms of COVID-19. It’s called the Stellate Ganglion Block. A study from Neuroversion Inc. followed a 44-year-old female who contracted COVID. Eight months after her diagnosis, she suffered from loss of smell and taste, mental fogginess, headache, and dyspnea. The patient underwent two SGB procedures where she reported seeing a drastic improvement in her condition within minutes of each.
Local pain specialist David Gaskin, owner of Republic Pain Specialist Clinic located at the Physicians Centre Hospital in Bryan, began offering the treatment a few months ago.
“We want to show people that there’s an opportunity to fix [long term symptoms], to work on that and, and make their lives better on a day-to-day basis,” said Gaskin.”
“The Stellate Ganglion Block, and we’re calling it a block because we’re simply blocking nerve transmission through that sympathetic ganglion has been used for many, many years,” said Gaskin. “Not particularly for COVID symptoms, but more for PTSD, complex regional pain syndrome.”
Madelyn Sudduth and her parents drove nearly seven hours to Bryan from Lubbock to see Gaskin. She caught COVID-19 just before Thanksgiving in 2020.
“It was right before Thanksgiving, and it was really traumatic because Thanksgiving is a holiday where everyone celebrates food and happiness and gathers around the table and just wants to taste and smell their food and be around family,” said Sudduth. “So I missed out that year and next year because I had COVID and lost all my taste and smell.”
In addition to losing her sense of taste and smell, she also experienced brain fog.
“I would do silly things like accidentally put the milk in a drawer instead of the refrigerator,” said Sudduth. " What I’m experiencing still is, I cannot focus on green lights and red lights at an intersection. So it’s really hard for me to process it, and it’s super slow, which is really difficult.”
Sudduth says she was expecting her symptoms to go away on their own, but they never did.
“I was not expecting long-term symptoms cause I know people who caught it right when COVID came out, and they only lost their taste and smell for about a month to two weeks to a day,” said Sudduth.
Sudduth and her parents allowed KBTX into the treatment room as she underwent the Stellate Ganglion Block procedure. The procedure is short and straightforward. Gaskin administered an injection into Sudduths nerves around the area where the carotid artery is located.
“We just want to block that sympathetic flow and allow her body to reset and start what it normally should do, which is autoregulation in a normal pattern,” said Gaskin.
Shortly before undergoing the procedure, Sudduth was hoping and praying for the best outcome so she could get her life back to normal.
“I just hope this procedure works for me and the other people who are stuck today because food and taste and smell are such an important factor in life,” said Sudduth.
The procedure itself took less than five minutes. Shortly after a 30 minute recovery time, Gaskin and his wife Dena brought Sudduth an orange to smell and a peanut butter cup to taste. She responded with a smile and stated that she could smell the orange and taste the candy. After regaining her senses, her smile brought a mixture of emotions through the room of smiles and tears of joy.
Keith Wright, a Fort Worth resident, says he contracted COVID-19 last January and shares a similar testimony.
“I found out because I lost my taste and smell one day. I didn’t have any other symptoms, but I couldn’t taste breakfast,” said Wright. “I tried a couple of foods that I didn’t like, and I realized that I didn’t have any taste or smell.”
Wright says getting the injection was the best decision he made.
“Right away, I noticed a remarkable difference. We went from doing the injection to walking straight into a break room and pouring up coffee and seeing what it smelled like,” said Wright. “I would say it probably affects 95% with one injection for all my issues.”
“I can say that coffee still smells a little bit off. I still can’t drink Coca-Cola, but I can eat mint chocolate and fried foods,” said Wright. “It’s not 100% of where I was a year ago before I had COVID, but with one injection, it has dramatically changed everything where I can eat again, and I can enjoy foods.”
Kelli Reynolds, a patient of Gaskins for a non-covid related treatment, takes a similar injection and says the treatment is amazing. Reynolds likes the injections because it reduces her dependency on painkillers and other over-the-counter treatments for knee pain.
“He relieved pain that I had suffered in one knee for 10 years with a single injection. Scar tissue had wrapped around a nerve, and he freed it,” said Reynolds. “He relieved pain in the other knee that I have been experiencing for a few years. The cartilage is worn down and I will need to have a total knee replacement, but his process called radio frequence ablation (RFA) has eased the pain.”
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