Researchers at University of Illinois Chicago have received $22 million from the federal government to better understand the phenomenon of "long COVID-19," and enrollment of patients for the study has begun.
Area resident John Kazik was one of the first 100 people to sign up.
“Part of it is, you know, being a good guy and open to letting people learn from my experience. The other part is very selfish, trying to figure out what the heck happened to me,” Kazik said.
Kazik still experiences major back and joint pain and insomnia on occasion, nearly 19 months after having COVID-19.
“Through 51, I didn't have these issues. Now I do and it all kind of kicked off when I got COVID,” Kazik said.
His diagnosis came in July 2020.
“I was the guy that would run marathons and then once I got this, I was left to barely be able to walk up the flight of stairs,” Kazik said.
A father to seven kids, the 53-year-old from Vernon Hills has a lot of the symptoms of what is now known as long COVID-19, when continued or new symptoms linger months after the initial illness.
“Chronic fatigue, insomnia, post-exertional malaise, and it just, it just lingered, and it just would not go away,” Kazik said.
Kazik went to multiple doctors to try to get help.
“Everybody says, you know, John, we have no idea. We don't know what this is. We don't know why it's happening to you and not other people and we really don't know how to treat it,” Kazik said.
When he heard about the research study at UIC called, “ILLInet RECOVER,” he signed on. UIC is one of more than 300 institutions taking part in a billion-dollar study through the National Institutes of Health to better understand long COVID-19.
“There’s a commitment that’s been made to solving this mystery and to do this in a collaborative way and quickly,” said Dr. Jerry Krishnan, a professor of medicine and public health at UIC.
The study currently has 100 people enrolled right now, and the goal is to have 1,000 people enrolled by the end of the year.
An outreach team from UIC has partnered with community organizations like Bright Star church in Bronzeville to ensure diverse representation.
“This is a proactive community engaged approach to research. This is research done differently,” Dr. Krishnan said.
Participants will fill out a health survey, undergo blood and other lab tests periodically for up to four years after their covid infection. It’s a scientific approach to what Dr. Krishnan calls, “the most complex problem that we have faced.”
The Post-COVID Clinic at UI Health provides multidisciplinary services and care coordination support for patients who are experiencing long-term effects of COVID-19. Anyone who needs care can contact 866-600-2273 for an appointment with a primary care provider at UI Health.