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Canucks' Brandon Sutter struggles with lingering COVID-19 symptoms

Vancouver -

It’s unclear when veteran Vancouver Canucks centreman will get back on the ice.

“He's experiencing some of the symptoms of the COVID. I guess they call it being a ‘long hauler,’” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said on Monday. “He still has some issues he's working through with that.

“So once he's feeling better, the first step for him is to get feeling better and then once he's healthy enough and feeling better, he'll start working out and get back out on the ice.”

Benning added Sutter does not have myocarditis, a condition that causes heart inflammation and has been associated with COVID-19.

Sutter, a veteran centreman, was one among the 21 Canucks players and four coaches who tested positive for the virus during an outbreak in late March, postponing several games and keeping the team off the ice for more than three weeks.

Many experienced symptoms, including extreme fatigue, fever, chills and shortness of breath. Loved ones also fell ill, including wives and children.

For some, it's no surprise that a healthy 32-year-old is experiencing COVID-related symptoms six months after contracting the disease, despite being in peak physical condition.

“I think it’s a misconception that if we’re young and fit we’ll bounce back no problem,” said Katy McLean, a Vancouver resident living with long COVID-19 symptoms.

“It’s really a roll of the dice. There are factors that we just don’t even know yet, like genetics and immune systems.”

McLean contracted the virus from an unknown source in Sept. 2020. More than a year later, she struggles with multiple effects of the virus, most notably chronic fatigue and shortness of breath. She has also developed Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which keeps her from standing for more than a few minutes at a time. The 43-year-old, who once led a physically active lifestyle, now gets around with the use of a cane.

“The fatigue is absolutely crushing. I have to rest after I do anything. If I answer a couple emails, I have to rest after. (If I wash) a couple of dishes, I need to rest after.”

McLean had to stay home for the past year, forcing her to leave her job as an office manager.

Dr. Chris Carlsten, a long COVID-19 researcher and professor with the University of British Columbia’s School of Medicine, says long COVID symptoms can appear in anyone, regardless of physical fitness.

“We really haven’t tackled it.”

Researchers have discovered COVID-19 affects the brain, heart, and gastrointestinal system, in addition to the lungs. As a result, Carlsten says, long COVID symptoms present themselves in many different ways, mimicking symptoms of other viruses and inflammatory conditions. The varying side effects make it difficult to pinpoint treatments for COVID-19 long haulers.

“The research is more slow-moving than we’d like,” said Carlsten. “We have to be patient. That goes for me, along with patients and families.”

“I am hoping that we see more treatment options,” McLean said.

Four post-COVID-19 recovery clinics are now accepting patients in the Lower Mainland, offering teams of experts including lung specialists, psychologists, rheumatologists and physical therapists to better care for people experiencing the long-lasting effects of an illness that’s still being analyzed and unravelled.

Carlsten works with the clinics and encourages those suffering from long COVID symptoms to be hopeful.

“The clinics are growing throughout the province. It’s not that you come in (to the clinic) and everything is solved, but there is support. People really do care.”

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Penny Daflos and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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