Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ty Godwin was an active, athletic guy who enjoyed running marathons and taking part in triathlons. But these days, he gets winded walking from the front door to his mailbox.
Godwin, 58, contracted the coronavirus last year and is still experiencing symptoms long after he should have officially recovered. The Colorado resident has been sick for an agonizing 14 months and is suffering from what medical experts call long-haul COVID-19, a phenomenon where patients experience symptoms that last six weeks or longer.
Over the past year, the 58-year-old has experienced several debilitating symptoms including burning feet, labored breathing, twitching legs and prolonged fevers over 100 degrees.
After 73 visits to doctors in Colorado and California, Godwin recently visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota to seek a solution for his prolonged illness. NBC News correspondent Tom Costello, who has been friends with Godwin since childhood, recently met up with him to hear more about his experience and shared the interview on TODAY.
According to the Mayo Clinic, 10-30% of COVID-19 patients may develop long-haul or post-COVID-19 symptoms, and most are under the age of 50. Many eventually make a full recovery, but managing the symptoms can be an overwhelming and frustrating experience.
A new study in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology found that 85% of non-hospitalized COVID-19 long-haulers experienced "four or more neurologic symptoms, such as brain fog, headache, numbness or tingling and loss of taste/smell."
Godwin, who has a child in college, now finds himself in near constant pain, exhausted and unable to work. Brain fog has been one of the most frustrating symptoms he's had to deal with, and he described an experience where he recently drove to pick up some takeout food and got confused.
"I hop in the car, I get two blocks away and couldn't remember where I was going," he said. "I couldn't remember the name (of the restaurant). I looked at my phone, five minutes later."
Doctors think Godwin was one of the first to contract the coronavirus back in January 2020 and now an entire team of experts at the Mayo Clinic is trying to examine his case with a set of fresh eyes.
"Our current thoughts are that this is an overreaction by the immune system. And basically, it's sort of like fighting an infection that's no longer there," Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn told TODAY.
Dr. Melody Christians is overseeing Godwin's care and is hopeful that, with time, his symptoms will subside.
"I think we're going to have to manage those chronic symptoms, with the hopes that maybe with time they can have full recovery. But I think it's too early to tell for sure," she said.
The past year has certainly taken a toll on Godwin and his wife, Phronsie, and she opened up to Costello about how the experience has affected their relationship.
"We've talked about mortality a lot too," she said. "Will he be around to walk his daughter down the aisle?"
It's a topic that's constantly on Godwin's mind.
"I think about mortality a lot. And missing out on life events," he said.
Some COVID long-haulers have reported that their symptoms have disappeared once they get their vaccinations, but doctors aren't sure if the vaccine has the same effect on everyone. Still, Godwin is scheduled to get his vaccination soon and he remains hopeful that he will get some relief.