ORLANDO, Fla. (WESH) — A University of Central Florida study is hoping to better understand the long-term complications of COVID-19 respiratory failure or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) after hospitalization in the intensive care unit.

“You just have to go one day at a time and just keep hoping and believing that it’s going to get better,” Volusia County resident Donna Crane said who spent 10 days in the ICU with COVID-19 in August.

The virus made Crane so ill she had to be treated for acute respiratory failure which is the inability to breathe on your own. She’s thankful to be alive, but most days she feels like she’s still fighting.

“The anxiety that comes from just being out in public and not knowing ‘Am I going to get this again? Am I going to go through this again? Am I going to survive it if I do get it?” Crane said. “You just don’t want to live like that.”

Crane described what Dr. Brian Peach calls post-intensive care syndrome.

“I find it very problematic that we save people’s lives only for them to ultimately have a terrible quality of life afterward,” Peach said.

The ICU nurse and UCF assistant professor is spearheading a year-long study that’ll compare complications for both COVID-19 patients and ICU survivors who were treated for respiratory failure.

“Because of trauma because of smoke inhalation or drowning they have this massive inflammatory response that makes them very very sick,” Peach said. “They get critically ill and they require life support to keep them alive.”

Peach said after patients are discharged from the ICU most of them experience things like anxiety, depression PTSD, lack of sleep and some even turn to substance abuse.

“Because of the condition that they have and also because of the medications that they receive and just because of the lack of sleep from having this big tube down your throat ultimately develops some of these issues that we’re studying,” Peach said.

Peach said studies show up to 80 percent of ICU patients alone who are treated for respiratory failure will experience post-intensive care syndrome. He’s hoping his study will change the statistic.

“Ultimately, we’re going to use that information to develop an intervention that we hope will help people,” Peach said.

The study is inviting adults at least 18 years of age who were hospitalized in an ICU for ARDS or COVID-19 between January 2020 and January 2022.

Participants’ requirements include:

  • At least one month removed from their hospitalization
  • Had a breathing tube in their throat that was attached to a ventilator
  • Live in Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola or Seminole County.

To learn more about the study and lead organizer, click here.

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