With 7 million known cases of the coronavirus across the country, more people are suffering from symptoms that go on and on.
They caught the coronavirus months ago and survived it, but they are still stuck at home, gasping for breath. They are no longer contagious, but some feel so ill that they can barely walk around the block, and others grow dizzy trying to cook dinner. Month after month, they rush to the hospital with new symptoms, pleading with doctors for answers.
As the coronavirus has spread through the United States over seven months, infecting at least 7 million people, some subset of them are now suffering from serious, debilitating and mysterious effects of Covid-19 that last far longer than a few days or weeks.
This group of patients wrestling with an array of alarming symptoms many months after first getting ill â they have come to call themselves âlong-haulersâ â are believed to number in the thousands. Their circumstances, still little understood by the medical community, may play a significant role in shaping the countryâs ability to recover from the pandemic.
By some estimates, as many as one in three Covid-19 patients will develop symptoms that linger. The symptoms can span a wide range â piercing chest pain, deep exhaustion, a racing heart. Those affected include young and otherwise healthy people. One theory is that an overzealous immune system plays a role.
âThere is just a lot of misunderstanding,â said Marissa Oliver, 36, who, long after she experienced classic virus symptoms, dragged herself to an urgent care clinic in New York because she was still struggling to breathe. The medical professionalâs advice? Go home and have a glass of wine.
âI started sobbing in the lobby,â Ms. Oliver said, adding that she was misdiagnosed as having anxiety. âIâve never been this sick in my life.â
In interviews, four people struggling with lingering conditions long after they had the coronavirus described their experiences. Their words have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Karla Monterroso, 39, of Los Angeles, leads an organization that advocates for the representation of Black and Latinx people in tech, but has not been able to work full time since March. She could not get tested until about a month after she first fell ill, and only recently tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.
Before this, I was a weight lifter, kayaker, hiker, white-water rafter. I canât do anything right now, physically, without harming myself. Itâs like someone cut your battery pack in half and doubled the charging time. I have to prep myself mentally for a shower.
The first few months, I didnât believe myself. Is this in my head? When I got the antibody test a few weeks ago saying I had a positive antibody test, I sobbed for like an hour. I was like, it is written on paper that this is what happened to me. Before then, youâre sitting there constantly questioning your own body, and no one in the medical community believes you.
There has been no public health campaign about this. I have relatives that believe if you have hot water and lemon, this will cure Covid. I have relatives that believe that I am sick because I work too much.
I could have just as easily been exposed to this thing and not have had symptoms and be fine today. There is no control over this. It is all Russian roulette, and you can minimize your times up at bat, but you canât zero them out. That is a very uncomfortable truth.
Candace Taylor, 38, was working in the billing and collections department of an Atlanta hospital when she tested positive for the virus in March. She described long-term coronavirus symptoms and a worsening of a previous chronic pain condition.
Iâve had chest pain every day since March. Iâve developed internal shaking. I get the dizzy spells. Iâve developed tachycardia. Tiny blood clots. Ear popping. Iâve lost my voice. There are days I go without talking. I kept asking, when is this going to stop? I couldnât lay flat. I had to sleep in a recliner for over two and a half months. At one point, I was thinking about a will. I was thinking I wasnât going to make it.
I have not been able to work. My job consists of speaking eight to 12 hours. With me being hoarse, I canât even talk 15 minutes.
I have not gotten paid from my employer since May. My disability was denied. Itâs like this disbelief. They donât believe me and thousands of us Covid long-haulers that have these symptoms.
Tony Pinero, 57, owned a ride share business in Las Vegas before testing positive for the virus in July.
They say you donât have Covid anymore, you are Covid-free, but that is not true. Now I have post-Covid, and post-Covid seems like itâs worse. I still have the headaches. I still feel dizzy. The thing that worries me the most is me being winded all the time. Itâs hard for me to walk up the stairs.
This has been such a detriment to my business that my business is virtually closed. I canât drive.
My doctor is saying, âHey, Tony, itâs just in your head.â No itâs not. Itâs not in my head. I donât want to sit here and not be able to breathe. I donât want to sit here and stay and do nothing. I want to go to work. I have to pay my car payments. Iâve got to pay my credit cards. Iâve got to pay my bills. Why would I want to sit at home?
Manuella Fehertoi, a bank worker in Middletown, N.J, tested positive for the virus in March. At 61, she had a history of asthma, and was hospitalized for seven days. Since then, she has been on oxygen at home and unable to work.
Itâs depressing. I am still as sick as I was back then. I still have spikes of my fever. I still have spikes of chest pain or difficulty breathing. There are days I can barely come out of bed. I had a minor stroke at the end of May. Still, today, the upper right side of my face is numb.
Donât get me started on my hair loss. I try not to look in the mirror too much, because it is just devastating. I used to color my hair and get all make up going. I look like I have aged 20 years. There is no shame, but itâs not me.
When people are for so long feeling this bad, constantly in pain, constantly in such anxiety of the unknown, they turn to the doctor, and the doctors donât know either. That starts to bring you down, that starts to be part of your life. Itâs like one big cocktail to make you anxious, frustrated, depressed. I just want to get back to being me. Lively, funny. I loved my job. I loved the people I worked with. Doing things with my children. Going to the beach, swimming, playing tennis. I canât do anything. I canât even walk around my backyard.
News – âItâs Not in My Headâ: They Survived the Coronavirus, but They Never Got Well