Chula Vista Healthcare Worker Fighting COVID-19 Long Hauler Symptoms

Isabel Ortuno battled nine days in the hospital and continues her recovery as a COVID-19 "long hauler"

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A South Bay healthcare worker was put to the ultimate test when she was hospitalized and survived her COVID-19 diagnosis, her recovery, however, has not been easy.

As COVID-19 cases climb, so are the number of "long haul" patients whose physical and mental symptoms persist. These are symptoms that Chula Vista healthcare worker, Isabel Ortuno, continues to battle.

“You do a lot of reflecting when you're in the hospital too and you're, 'Like why? Why did I survive this? Why did a lot of other people not survive it?'” questioned Ortuno.

For the last three months, Ortuno has been battling COVID-19 symptoms and it all began after she was exposed to the virus at home.

“Home is where you're supposed to feel safe, be safe, it's a place where your mask comes off and you trust the loved ones here and unfortunately that's how I was exposed to it," she said. "There were no social gatherings, it's just happened."

After two weeks of quarantining upon her diagnosis and experiencing all the symptoms, she was taken to the emergency room when her fever spiked and she started to feel shortness of breath.

“It's a lot of reflecting too. It's an eye-opener when in the hospital,” said Ortuno. “Being able to gasp for air is a very scary feeling.”

For nine days Ortuno was isolated and treated in a COVID unit where no visitors are allowed.

“It's not the same where you really just want a loved one to hold your hand a little and you know that it's going to be okay,” she said.

Fortunately, Ortuno went home, but that's when her post COVID symptoms began. Research suggests as many as 10% of coronavirus patients go on to become long haulers, with symptoms that continue for weeks or even months.

“That’s why with long haulers it's the unknown,” Ortuno said.

The Chula Vista healthcare worker has been dealing with an irregular heart rate, chest pains, extremity numbness, and fatigue. She's also struggling with emotional, physical, and financial stress.

“It also creates anxiety and that's another thing I've been experiencing because you know financially if my symptoms continue six months down the road, how can it be out of work for that long?” she said.

Ortuno said she's scheduled to return to work on March 1 and she hopes she will be able to. She says she would like to see dedicated COVID-19 clinics open up across the country, with resources available to especially help long haulers.

Ortuno says while hopsitilized she saw the need for folks to donate magazines, crossword puzzles or books for hospitalized patients.

UC San Diego Health old NBC 7 that all items (books, crossword puzzles, magazines) must be new due to the pandemic.

To coordinate a donation, contact UC San Diego Health’s Volunteer Services at or call 619-543-6370 to coordinate a drop-off.

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