Covid19 Survivor Followup: Shawn Cochran Feels Fine

by Heather Robinson

August 24–A spate of recent reporting on lingering symptoms among Covid19 survivors is prompting the question: to what extent are otherwise healthy people who recover from coronavirus developing chronic health issues related to it? Lingering symptoms reported by some recovered Covid19 survivors include mental confusion, fogginess, and difficulty concentrating; reduced lung capacity; fatigue; and discolored fingers and toes.

In the interest of research, I’m following up with some of the Covid19 survivors I interviewed this spring. First one I’ve re-interviewed is Shawn Cochran, 45, of Charleston, S.C. And the news is good: He feels perfectly fine.

Cochran, a golf pro and recreation specialist in golf marketing for the City of Charleston, S.C. who recovered from Covid19 this spring, has continued to rebound since our interview in late April, and now feels “totally as strong as ever” and “better than [he] did before.”

After struggling with mild symptoms of Covid19 – a light cough and fatigue – for several weeks, Cochran made a full physical recovery, testing negative for the virus and developing antibodies that enabled him to donate plasma three times. The only lingering symptom he says he experienced after feeling better and testing negative was mental confusion, which lasted for about a month after he recovered physically.

He described this mental confusion as “brain fog” and a “hangover effect.” He added it’s now “completely gone.”

“For a little while I felt very confused,” he recalled. “Like when I was so tired, it felt like I was having to reach deep and go through brain fog. That was like for a month after I was totally [physically] recovered. It was like, as I was healing, I felt a fog in my head.”

In particular, Cochran says he had difficulty remembering names of people and things.

“I’m typically bad at trying to recall names; it was particularly bad for a while where I couldn’t find the word or the name,” Cochran said. “It would be like, I should know the damn word for something, like a Fiat… as in ‘Oh, this guy was driving a Fiat.’ Or a croissant … I’d be like, “Oh, what is that pastry called? Buttery, flaky… what is it? And they’d be like, ‘It’s a croissant!’”

He also felt some lingering fatigue for a short time.

“When I’d get tired I’d get really tired,” he said. “At the very end of my recovery, I was feeling good; I was chopping wood one day and I felt I’d turned the corner … then I realized I wasn’t 100 percent. It wasn’t ‘normal Shawn tired’ but extra tired … but after that, I was even stronger. Maybe because I’m working out a lot, I’m in better shape now than I was in my 20’s.”

Cochran said he no longer experiences the brain fog.

“It was a lingering item, I’d say for maybe a month after I recovered, but it slowly went away, and then it was gone. One weekend my brain was back to firing quickly.”

“It was remarkable how foggy I [had been]; there was a kind of hangover effect. Maybe the virus put it there; it felt like it was part of the whole chain of what happened to me.”

Cochran says that four months after recovering, his energy level remains “as good as it’s ever been,” and his lung capacity is “totally strong as ever.”

“Not to overhype it, but I actually feel better [than I did before I got Covd19],” he said. “I’m eating a rounded diet, and I’m getting the normal effects of having a healthy lifestyle.”

He has experienced no return of physical symptoms such as cough or fatigue. He says he didn’t develop a fever during his bout with Covid19 – and hasn’t since.

His antibody levels have been tested three times by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and once at a drive-by medical center since he recovered in early April, and each time, he has been told the levels are “high” – meaning he has strong immunity from the virus, at least for the present, which makes him an ideal plasma donor.

On the personal side, Cochran says he’s experienced some social stigma, and occasionally people have difficulty accepting that he is fully recovered.

“There are some individuals who, as soon as I tell them I’ve had [Covid19], and recovered, they are in another space,” he said. “It’s like they don’t want to be in the same room.”

Some are very determined to focus on the negative.

[Some] people immediately come back with, “Oh, you can get it again!”

Cochran thinks Americans should continue to take precautions to protect themselves, and especially to protect the vulnerable, including the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, from Covid19. But he also believes more people would benefit from allowing themselves to hear more good news about people who have fully recovered.

“Everyone’s talking like they [personally] know someone who was deathly ill, who is on a respirator, who had [previously] been completely healthy … I’m like, all right, but dude, here’s a positive story and I’m right here in front of you, please ask me!

“There are some people who, as soon as you start telling them something positive about [recovering], they check completely out.”

Cochran added that, having recovered from Covid19, he feels an obligation to answer questions if people have them.

Asked how exactly it felt, as a youngish, entirely healthy person, to have Covid19, Cochran characterized his experience as, “Worse than a head cold – but not as bad as the flu.”

In terms of the discomfort, it was equivalent to “having bad allergies,” he said. “You feel miserable and pissed off. Not sick like the flu, where you literally can’t get out of bed…  More like you feel lousy, but you could power through the day if you had to. But I was able to keep sleeping.

“I need to say with absolute conviction it wasn’t that bad, there’s positivity out of this, and it’s not all gloom and doom,” he said.

He also characterized the physical and psychological experience of having Covid 19 as not so much terrible as “weird.” Among the “weird” symptoms were a loss of smell and taste during the initial illness that had an on and off “light switch” quality, and the brain fog, both of which have gone away completely.

“It was unlike any other illness I’ve ever had in 44 years of life,” Cochran said. “But now I’m fine. Maybe even a better version of myself.”

Cochran feels “blessed to have the opportunity to be ok, to be healthy.” He said he’s enjoying being back at work, and spending days off at Folly Beach, S.C., adding, “I’m grateful I got [Covid19] and got through it early.

“It wasn’t that bad.”