In early January, international media reported that Alphonso Davies, a star player on Canada’s national soccer team, tested positive for Covid-19, along with several other Bayer-München players. About a week after testing positive, physicians diagnosed the 21-year-old with mild myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle which can sometimes arise from a Covid-19 infection.
Myocarditis weakens and enlarges a heart and forces it to work harder to circulate the body’s oxygen and blood. Fortunately, myocarditis is typically mild and temporary, and only in severe cases can it can be damaging and result in heart damage and heart attacks.
For Davies, it’s been reported that the condition will delay his return to Canada’s qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup for at least 3-4 weeks; however, athletes who have a myocarditis diagnosis are commonly side-lined for 3 or more months to allow their heart to fully recover, so we may not see Alphonso Davies play for some time. Only a very small percentage of athletes develop persistent myocarditis, so there’s every expectation that Davies will make a full and quick recovery.
Long-term Damage to Lungs, Heart and other Organs
In fact, most Canadians who contract Covid-19 completely recover, but a minority, including those with only mild Covid symptoms, suffer short- or long-term complications caused by the infection, after having initially recovered from the disease. Although Covid-19 mainly impacts the lungs and respiratory system, the virus can also result in damage to other organs, such as the heart, brain and kidneys.
The Mayo Clinic reports that long-term damage to organs may result in chronic breathing problems; blood clots, stroke and heart complications; chronic kidney impairment; and Guillain-Barre syndrome (a condition which may result in temporary paralysis). In some cases, persons (including children) may undergo multisystem inflammatory syndrome causing inflammation in some of their organs and tissues, following Covid-19 infection. And, when organs have been damaged by the virus, the patient is at greater risk of experiencing prolonged health problems.
A recent JAMA review looked at 57 studies of persistent short- and long-term post-Covid symptoms. The review found that the most common long-term acute consequences of Covid-19 infections involved mobility impairments, pulmonary (lung) abnormalities and mental health problems. In order of prevalence, the following signs/symptoms were recorded: chest imaging abnormalities, difficulty concentrating, generalized anxiety disorder, general functional impairments, and fatigue or muscle weakness. The JAMA study predicted that the sheer number of long-term affects could overwhelm health care services, especially in poorer nations.
Persons who experience prolonged and continuous symptoms for at least 4 weeks after recovering from Covid-19, are often referred to as ‘long-haulers’. Long-haulers have been described as having ‘post-Covid syndrome’ or ‘long Covid’ - they have recovered from the acute stage of the disease and test negative for Covid-19, but continue to experience lingering health issues resulting from the infection. And, for some long-haulers, symptoms don’t arise until weeks after they have recovered the virus.
In addition to possible organ inflammation or damage, the following symptoms may be experienced by persons with post-Covid syndrome.
- Breathing problems
- Fatigue and difficulty sleeping
- Chest pain and/or cough
- Loss of smell or taste
- Joint or muscle pain
- ‘Brain fog’; difficulty with memory and concentration
- Feeling dizzy when standing up
- Mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression and PTSD
- Increased heartbeat and palpitations
- Exacerbation of symptoms during activity or exercise
On Oct 18, 2021, CBC published a report of a 36-year-old Ontario resident, Kelli Nadeau, who suffered for 11 months with prolonged symptoms she believes arose from a Covid-19 infection (for which she was never formally tested). Nadeau still experiences strange muscle pains at times, and can no longer run the way she once did, but no longer suffers from the extreme fatigue, brain fog and muscle aches which took over her life for almost a year.
Post-Covid Disability Claim
It’s not difficult to imagine that a person with long-term post-Covid symptoms - such as constant exhaustion, an inability to think clearly and concentrate, and muscle aches all over their body - is unable to work or even perform many of the chores they normally do. Anyone with short or long-term disability coverage through their work or another policy is entitled to claim disability benefits if their post-Covid symptoms prevent them from performing the essential tasks of their current job. In cases where ‘long hauler’ symptoms continue beyond 2 years after becoming ill, a person is entitled to disability benefits it their condition prevents them from performing any job to which they are suited according to their experience, education or training.
The World Health Organization and Canada’s medical community recognizes that post-Covid syndrome can be serious and disabling for affected Canadians. Nevertheless, disability insurance providers often deny disability benefits for post Covid-19 complications.
If you are suffering from post-Covid symptoms and your symptoms prevent you from being able to work, you may be entitled to disability benefits under your disability insurance plan. To make a successful disability claim for long Covid, just as would be required for any medical condition, you must be under the care of a physician, psychiatrist, pulmonologist or another appropriate medical professional, and must have been following your doctor’s recommendations for treatment. Further, your claim for disability benefits must include any appropriate medical tests as well as specific opinion evidence from your doctor describing how your symptoms prevent you from performing the essential tasks of your job.
If you have been unfairly denied disability benefits for post-Covid syndrome, don’t give up - consult with an experienced ILO disability lawyer who will fight for your right to receive owed benefits.