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caption: Anna King went to the emergency room twice during her battle with Covid-19 before developing heart issues. Once she was having trouble breathing, another time the virus attacked her inner ear, giving her vertigo. 
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Anna King went to the emergency room twice during her battle with Covid-19 before developing heart issues. Once she was having trouble breathing, another time the virus attacked her inner ear, giving her vertigo.
Credit: Anna King / NW News Network

Correspondent and Covid 'long hauler' Anna King: 'It was a squeezing feeling'

The first time it happened, it was a squeezing feeling. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My heart raced. At the hospital, I got an EKG and took a blood test. It wasn’t a heart attack. Just felt like one. Then, it happened again. And again.

This is increasingly common. Doctors are learning Covid-19 isn’t just a respiratory illness. Some of those who’ve had it, like me, end up with heart inflammation, heart rhythm problems or worse. 

“People who have Covid-19 can have heart attacks, but also heart muscle injury when the virus is affecting their body,” says Dr. Grant Reed, an interventional cardiologist with the Cleveland Clinic. “What I’m curious about is why some patients recover very quickly, and some patients have very bad symptoms.” 

It’s not clear if these symptoms are permanent. In some patients with another coronavirus — SARS — heart symptoms often turned out to be temporary.

Broken heart syndrome?

I’m still waiting for a diagnosis. 

As Dr. Reed has studied, many people who haven’t even had Covid-19 this year have been reporting what’s called “broken heart syndrome.” It feels like you’re having a heart attack, but you’re not. It’s caused by stress and can often be treated. 

“The effects of the pandemic are stressing everyone out,” Reed says. “People aren’t exercising as much, a lot of my patients have put on a lot of weight. It’s really changed people’s lifestyles.” 

Reed recommends spending time on self care. Exercise. Eating right. All things we know we should do.

Tests, more tests

I’d never had these symptoms before. In high school I ran track and played soccer. In college I took an elective long-distance running class. I’ve hiked eastern Washington and Mount Adams since I was young. 

I’m hiking again. I’m close to five miles on flat terrain. But the possibility that I have something wrong with my heart makes me mad. It scares me, in fact.

Since my heart pain started in August, I’ve done a battery of tests: a heart ultrasound, a stress test. I’ve worn a heart monitor for weeks. It’s worrying not to know what’s wrong.

Here’s why I’m telling you about myself: Because when you celebrate the New Year or think about any other kind of celebration or gathering, I want you to take every precaution. Keep your distance. Wear a mask. Or better yet, stay home. 

[Copyright 2020 Northwest News Network]