By the time I finish the morning chores and making breakfast, I need my bed. I need sleep. My stubbornness is no match for the weightiness of the fitted lead suit that constricts my body and strangles my thoughts. I return the broom or the dish cloth or the gallon of milk to its rightful place and murmur, “I’m going to bed.”
I slept away my days during the first three months. My thoughts lingering in a cotton-candy haze, books stacked up on my nightstand waiting to be read. The dogs stirred restlessly waiting for me to rise and pull out the vacuum or take them outside where they could soak up the sunshine while I pulled weeds. Guilt for yet another wasted day would set in around four o’clock, and I would drag my heavy limbs to another room, dogs following; cats begging for a treat.
At some point I’d had enough of the darkness and began setting an alarm, allowing myself one hour of sleep a day. Some days that hour is enough. Other days I get a bit done around the house or make a run to the grocery store before I need to sleep again. But at least I do something, anything to participate in this game we call life.
Long COVID, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, long-term effects of COVID, or chronic COVID are terms used to describe lingering symptoms that an estimated 25% of Americans are experiencing long after the initial infection subsides. The symptoms are as differed as the names given to this conundrum, and the scientific information is a moving target on what is now considered the expert go-to sites: Center for Disease Control (CDC), Worldwide Health Organization (WHO), John Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, and the unprecedented coverage by a team of journalists at The New York Times.
My symptoms are as varied and changing as the science. Since we are still in the infancy of understanding the virus let alone long-term effects, I am constantly digging for data. The fields of science and medicine by their very disciplines are not designed to move at lightning speed. So, when I found a rash creeping across my belly or ended up in the emergency room with stroke-like symptoms, doctors were stumped.
I am stumped too. Long COVID continues to tweak and morph my mind and body into a person I hardly recognize. The things I used to do far out way the things I am able do today. Once the chores are done and the papers are graded, I no longer have the energy to connect with friends and family be it in person or through social media, and I miss this the most. I miss long phone calls and laughter over lunch. I miss catching up with people through Instagram and Facebook. I miss posting on these sites and responding to comments from friends, some of whom I haven’t heard from in decades.
Twenty-five percent of COVID survivors are long-haulers. That’s a lot of folks suffering with a myriad of symptoms, treading water at work, napping, missing their children’s milestones, using up sick days, and letting books stack up on their nightstands. If someone you know is a long-hauler, stop right now and reach out. If we don’t pick up the phone or answer the text, our silence is brought on by fatigue. Your gesture, however, will be greatly appreciated!