TAMPA, Fla. — A long-term care facility for COVID-19 survivors is coming to Tampa Bay.
The Global Emerging Diseases Institute will be the new home for the "COVID Confirmed Clinic" or COCO Clinic.
COCO Clinic is run by infectious disease physicians in the Department of Internal Medicine at USF Health, Morsani College of Medicine. It runs in partnership with Tampa General Hospital and the Florida Department of Health.
The clinic, up to this point, has mostly centered on telemedicine. Doctors and medical students have done follow-up care with those who have been released from the USF Health or TGH systems. Now, GEDI will serve as a home base for care and research.
An emphasis will be put on taking care of COVID-19 'long haulers,' virus survivors who continue to have side effects weeks, or months, after surviving the coronavirus.
Dr. Daniel Lumpuy was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March. He continues to have issues with side effects today. “I had two weeks of solid just constant chest pain, constant palpitations, constant shortness of breath, I couldn't even walk my dog up and down my block," Dr. Lumpuy said. "I just lied on my couch debilitated. And that was the first time that I was really scared.”
Part of the clinic's research will focus on how to treat people like Dr. Lumpuy.
“We don't understand everything. We don't know everything that's going to happen from this virus long term," Dr. Asa Oxner, the COCO Clinic Operations Director said. "There's other viruses that cause cancer, there's several of them. There's viruses that cause COPD. There's viruses that cause liver cirrhosis.”
Doctors still know so little about long term COVID-19 effects. Dr. Lumpuy has experienced that firsthand.
“I got tests done that showed I was normal, but clearly something was wrong," he said. "Thankfully, I made it out of that two weeks period, but I don't know when that's gonna happen again. I don't even know what caused it. All we know is that I had COVID and ever since then I've continued to have bumps in the road.”
Set-backs that Oxner and her team are hoping to learn more about and prevent in the future. "If nobody is studying it, then we're just going to randomly find it out. Unfortunately, too late for many patients.”
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