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'I don’t want to catch it a third time' | Houston man has PTSD after catching COVID two times

Doctors are finding out that PTSD is very common in people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19.

HOUSTON — Houston doctors have found nearly 80% of people with severe cases of COVID-19 struggle with PTSD months later.

RELATED: Health Matters: COVID-19 pandemic has also been a source of trauma for so many people

Shaun Santiago was first hospitalized with COVID-19 last summer.

“I was in the ICU for two weeks. The doctors and nurses are fully in PPE, so you don’t see what they really look like. There’s no human contact at all,” Santiago said.

He went home after testing negative twice. A few weeks later, he went back to the emergency room because he didn’t feel well. A doctor told Santiago he had COVID-19 again. He was admitted to the hospital for a second time.

“I said, ‘I can show you my two negative results.’ She wasn’t sarcastic, but she said, ‘You’re one of the lucky ones who caught it twice’,” he said.

Being hospitalized with COVID twice is something not many can say. However, what he continues to deal with is common.

Dr. Louise McCullough is a neurologist at UTHealth who works with long-haul COVID patients. She says 35% of people with mild cases struggle with PTSD three months after recovering, and 77% of people with severe cases have PTSD.

RELATED: 36-year-old woman struggling with 'long haul COVID' five months after infection

“Having anxiety, depression, PTSD, trouble sleeping - all those things we do have treatment for. Just talk to your doctor about them and don’t be embarrassed about them, because they’re so common. You’re not alone,” McCullough said. “You’re not sick. You’re not damaged. You just need to work through it. The best thing you can do is protect yourself. Get vaccinated. Wear a mask. Wash your hands.”

Getting a third dose of the vaccine as a booster shot has given Santiago some peace of mind.

“I don’t want to catch it a third time. I don’t know if I can catch it a third time. I don’t even know if the scientists know if you can catch it a third time,” he said.