NORFOLK, VA (WAVY) — When we first met Jon Cotton back in May 2021, he was angry about lingering COVID symptoms that left him unable to work full time at his job as a nurse anesthetist at Sentara Princess Anne or enjoy travel with his wife.

A year and a half later he told 10 On Your Side “I still get fatigued – still use oxygen at night and if I travel by plane I wear oxygen.”

Cotton is one of more than 450 patients seen at Sentara’s Post-COVID clinic, which was started by Dr. Xian Qiao.

“Some of the patients have gotten better to the point where they don’t need to see us anymore and there are some that are still seeing us,” Qiao said.

The patient’s symptoms are wide-ranging and include shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of smell, fatigue, sleep issues and brain fog.

Dr. Qiao’s goal is to put these pieces of the COVID puzzle together by finding patients with similar symptoms, determining what helps them, and sharing that information with other healthcare providers.

Cotton is one good example of that. They discovered his oxygen was going down when he slept but he didn’t have sleep apnea.

“So then we started checking more and more with our other patients and we started seeing more and more,” Qiao told WAVY.

Now that Cotton and others use oxygen at night, the COVID puzzle is coming together, however, Qiao said, ” I think we still need a little more data and guidance.”

The National Institutes of Health is currently conducting a large Long COVID study and Qiao hopes when it’s done in a few years, more pieces will click.

Dr. Qiao said some patients have milder symptoms than Cotton while others are worse than him. There are also some who come in for long COVID and it’s determined something else is causing their symptoms.

For instance, allergies or another disease coincidentally appeared around the same time as a COVID diagnosis.

Cotton has since learned to cope with his new normal and says that “The goal for Dr. Qiao and I is to scuba dive again, but I don’t think my wife has that same goal.”