Feeling heard: Established primary care relationship helps Essentia patient navigate unusual COVID symptom

December 13, 2023  By: Caitlin Pallai

Older woman smiling at camera

Longtime Detroit Lakes resident, Sue Sorensen, contracted COVID-19 for the first time in August 2022.

Sorensen recalls waking up one morning with a bad head cold. Working in the health care field, she decided to take an at-home COVID-19 test. The results came back positive, and within days her symptoms had intensified.

"I was absolutely miserable," she explained. "My head felt so full and then it started to affect my hearing. My husband had to be right in front of me, screaming, for me to hear him. Of course I thought, 'What was going to happen if I don't get my hearing back?' "

Sorensen made an appointment to see her primary care provider (PCP), Tammi Fuchs, an advanced practice registered nurse and certified nurse practitioner specializing in family medicine at the Essentia Health St. Mary's-Detroit Lakes Clinic.

"Tammi was so reassuring and comforting," said Sorensen. "At that point, she hadn't really heard of anyone losing their hearing due to COVID-19, so she did some research on it. Eventually I found out that hearing loss is a symptom of COVID."

Prescribed ear drops, Sorensen was encouraged to reach out with any questions or concerns, or if a new symptom appeared.

"I saw her three times in a week," admitted Sorensen, who added that Fuchs, knowing how anxious and scared Sorensen was, always made time to see her. She also cites Fuchs' prompt willingness to quickly connect her with a specialist.

Sorensen's hearing returned over the next few months — not to 100% but much better than it had been.

"I try to look at the positive side of things," she said. "It's really taught me to appreciate my hearing and to be sympathetic with those who have any hearing impairment."

As for having a PCP, Sorensen emphasized the importance of having someone that you trust be there for you.

"For the entire time that I've gone to Tammi, she would always give me her full attention," she said. "She listens to you and doesn't rush you. She always gives me time to tell her how I'm feeling and share any concerns that I may have."

The importance of primary care

At Essentia Health, we provide care for every age and every need, and a PCP is a key component of your care. With the new year approaching, it's a great time to reconnect with your wellness goals. A PCP can help keep you on track.

A PCP can also help you manage chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and hormonal deficiencies. Similarly, these providers play a pivotal role in managing their patients' mental health needs. Through annual and periodic check-ups, patients can stay up to date on required vaccinations and important age-appropriate cancer screenings. Your PCP can coordinate this care and refer you to specialists if needed.

Essentia features numerous providers throughout its service area; several are actively welcoming new patients. To find a caring and compassionate PCP to help you on your health care journey, visit EssentiaHealth.org.

Essentia patients may be able to see their PCP virtually or in-person, depending on their needs. To schedule a visit, call (844) 663-1068, log in to the MyChart app or webpage, or schedule online at EssentiaHealth.org.

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