Photo: Associated Press
First came a high fever, drenching sweats, and muscle aches. Then, almost a month later, a weird numbness that spread down the right side of her body.
Darlene Gildersleeve of Hopkinton, N.H., thought she had recovered from COVID-19. Doctors said the 43-year-old mother of three just needed rest. And for several days, no one suspected her worsening symptoms were related — until a May 4 video call, when her physician heard her slurred speech and consulted a specialist.
“You’ve had two strokes,’’ a neurologist told her at the hospital.
Blood clots that can cause strokes, heart attacks, and dangerous blockages in the legs and lungs are increasingly being found in COVID-19 patients, including some children. Even tiny clots that can damage tissue throughout the body have been seen in hospitalized patients and in autopsies, confounding doctors’ understanding of what was once considered mainly a respiratory disease.
“I have to be humble and say I don’t know what’s going on there, but, boy, we need to find that out,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, remarked during an interview with a medical journal last month. Unless doctors know what’s causing a patient’s symptoms, “it’s going to be tough to do intervention,” he said.
Gildersleeve said health authorities “need to put out an urgent warning about strokes” and coronavirus infection. Not knowing the possible link “made me doubt myself” when symptoms appeared, she said.