Mary Kennedy knows about brain injury. She’s helped people suffering from brain injury rebuild their cognitive skills for more than 35 years.
She now sees mild brain injury symptoms in patients suffering from the lingering effects of COVID-19.
“They’re having trouble staying organized, remembering details and meetings, thinking of words that they want to use, and they’re being forgetful at home,” says Kennedy, professor of communication sciences and disorders at Chapman University’s Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences. “There are people living with some of these symptoms and trying to get back to work, back to school, back into their household duties – and some are really struggling.”
Leveraging their clinical experiences, Kennedy and speech-language pathologist Chantale Hucks are helping long COVID sufferers reclaim their lives.
“We’ve seen very few studies describing the communication problems someone can have after COVID,” Kennedy says. The syndrome also lacks clear criteria for its prevention, diagnosis and management.
The Neuro-Deficit Clinic for COVID-19 Survivors, which was sparked by Kennedy and a donation from the U.S. Justice Charitable Foundation, is based at Chapman University’s Rinker Health Science Campus in Irvine. The clinic serves people in person and through telehealth. Anyone can seek evaluation and treatment for free.
In fall, speech language pathology graduate students will work under supervision to treat people seeking help at the clinic.
“There aren’t a lot of university clinics that are currently having students help treat COVID clients,” says Kennedy. “It’s exciting that we can start training our students in this.”
At Chapman’s clinic, a speech therapist interviews and evaluates patient questionnaires, then coaches patients with strategies to help with tasks including focusing and remembering words.
“They then go about their week trying to use the strategy, then they come back and tell us the extent to which the strategy was useful. Did it work? Was it too much effort? Did they see that this could become a habit?” Kennedy says. “If the answer is, ‘it was too much work,’ then we explore other strategies.”
Kennedy hopes that the clinic and study can become a resource to Orange County’s continued response to the pandemic, providing a missing step in caring for people with long-tem COVID-19.
“A lot of primary care physicians still don’t know where to refer these folks or what kind of assistance is available for them,” says Kennedy
About Chapman University
Founded in 1861, Chapman University is a nationally ranked private university located in Southern California. Chapman is categorized by the Carnegie Classification as an R2 “high research activity” institution and offers personalized education to more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The campus has produced a Rhodes Scholar, been named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars, and hosts a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society. Based in the city of Orange, Chapman also includes the Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus in Irvine. In 2019, the university opened its 11th college, Fowler School of Engineering, in its newest facility, Keck Center for Science and Engineering. Learn more about Chapman University: www.chapman.edu.
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