McCance Clinic Patient Shares Her COVID Recovery Journey

We recently interviewed Maria Loscertales, 53, to learn about her experience since contracting COVID-19 in 2021, and participation in a McCance observational study to better understand Long-COVID. 

Tell us a little about yourself.

My family and I live in Charlestown (Boston). I’m a scientist, and until recently I was researching mouse genetics in the Department of Pediatric Surgery at Mass General. I’m from Spain – I grew up in the city, in Madrid, and I love the pace of being in the city here as well. 

I got my doctorate in neuroscience, and while pursuing my degree became more interested in biology and bench science. I came to the US in 2000 to work at MGH, on research to better understand the development of the lungs. Funding for the projects I was leading was running out at about the same time I was recovering COVID, so I’m taking a break at the moment.

I’m a mom – three kids, who are 17, 14 and 11. They’re all great students, who were lucky to be in a hybrid learning environment throughout COVID. Together we’ve taken this time as a chance to be really focused on doing everything we can to stay healthy – mentally and physically. I’ve always been really active, and I love being outside, but the pandemic in general, and having COVID myself, has really made our family focus on health. We love to be in nature, and get to the beach when we can. It’s advice I give my kids all the time – get outside, it will always makes you feel better. 

When you got COVID, what was your experience?

I contracted COVID in Feb 2021 – we assume the kids brought it home from school. I didn’t have major symptoms, at the time – I wasn’t hospitalized – I was just really exhausted. After the first symptoms were better, I assumed I had recovered, but quickly noticed there were symptoms I just couldn’t shake.

Long-COVID Symptoms 

I was having difficulty reading the things I would normally read. I couldn’t concentrate at all. I had no energy, and I was unable to accomplish the main things I liked to do or needed to do for work. It was a struggle to do two things at once. I tried to take more breaks and take better care of myself, and that helped.

McCance Clinic – the “Bench to Bedside” Experience

When many of the symptoms persisted, my PCP referred me to Daniel Rubin, MD, a neurologist with the McCance Clinic for Brain Health at MGH. I was still having difficulty sleeping and multi-focusing. I couldn’t sustain the basics, like housekeeping, my job, and being there for my kids. I had vertigo, and exhaustion that kept me from doing sports with the energy I normally would. Dr. Rubin confirmed it was likely Long-COVID, and while treating me, also referred me to a Long-COVID study the McCance Center is doing.

A Path to Recovery

I’m generally not an advocate for taking medicine – so I asked Dr. Rubin for advice on how I could adjust my lifestyle instead. I’ve been working on these areas:

  • DIET: I focused on a Mediterranean diet, and eating less meat, and more legumes, salad, fish, fruit.
  • EXERCISE: I’ve been doing Yin Yoga (a slower paced yoga with longer stretching) for about 20 min. every day, and working out at the gym with weights. I go to Zumba classes, too.
  • NATURAL PRODUCTS: I’ve been taking lion’s mane (natural product) – it’s been reported by patients to have a positive impact on inflammation and brain health.

After six months, I’ve now been back to Dr. Rubin, and he says to “keep doing what you’re doing.” I’m still tired much sooner than I normally would be, after 3-4 hours of activity. But I also have nice dreams – and I’m really focused on the full circle of brain health – better sleep, healthy energy and activity and diet in the daytime – versus no sleep, worse in the daytime, less restful sleep the next night.

I’m participating in a study to understand the long-term effects of Long-COVID, where I’m now evaluated every three months. I’m especially eager to do this because of my career in research, but I hope that it will help better understand how diseases like COVID impact the brain, and what we can do to improve brain health.