With surge in COVID cases comes more long-haul patients causing concern for local hospitals


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hospitalizations are up and doctors are seeing some patients who recover from coronavirus in days. Then they’re also seeing others who don’t who are hospitalized for weeks.

Hilo Medical Center currently has 29 patients in its facility, three of them are what doctors are calling long haulers.

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“I’m going to say there’s no end in sight in getting them off the ventilator anytime soon,” said Dr. Douglas Do of Hilo Medical Center. “They are still needing high amounts of options that they can’t go home with. You know, some of them are on high flow oxygen. You can’t send a person to home with that. The others are on mechanical life support.”

Dr. Do says most long haulers are unvaccinated. Some have been in their care for more than five weeks causing a trickle down effect to the rest of their system.

“When you take up nearly half of the ICU capacity, it affects our community and patients who come in with other diagnoses like heart attacks or strokes,” said Dr. Do.

Health officials say long COVID is common in children and anyone who has had COVID, even if it was a mild case. Besides prolonged hospitalization and organ issues, other long COVID symptoms include weakness, sleep disorders and dizziness. Those are things Oahu resident Kevin Kondo has been battling for over a year.

“I’ve been surfing for 50 years and I do the long distance stand up paddling, but I just don’t have the energy to do that,” said Kevin Kondo, Oahu man suffering from long COVID. “Then when I walk my dogs, I get winded, I mean, just walking my dogs. I would say it’s a toss up between the brain fog and fatigue, which is worse. The brain fog happens and your mind just goes blank for a few seconds.”

Kondo has been vaccinated since first catching the virus and now seeks care at long COVID clinics.

Queen’s Health Systems has its Post COVID Care Clinic available on Oahu for those experiencing heart and brain damage, chronic fatigue and sleep problems to name a few. The clinic has helped dozens of long haulers so far.

With an already dire situation at Hawaii’s hospitals, doctors are asking the community to help them, help others by getting vaccinated.

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“I’ve been vaccinated,” said Kondo. “I know what the side effects from that. That’s like nothing compared to having either been sick from COVID or to have it affect you for so long after.”

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