I’ve Recovered From Long Covid. I’m One of the Lucky Ones.
Much of the country is moving past the pandemic. But many people still can’t, and I know exactly how that feels.
By Laura M. Holson
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I met a friend for lunch recently, one of my first New York social outings since Covid-19 forced the world into solitude 15 months ago. We laughed and shared a bottle of prosecco. We didn’t wear masks. We hugged. Twice. As we offered each other hearty goodbyes after our three-hour gabfest, a woman remarked as she passed us on the street, “It is so good to see people happy again.”
Signs are everywhere that normal life, or whatever will pass for it in a postpandemic world, is re-emerging. But for the tens of thousands of people who contracted the coronavirus and have continued to have symptoms, the euphoria is short-lived. In April 2020 I was diagnosed with Covid-19 and, for nearly 10 months, was subject to chest pain, fatigue, fever, night sweats and other maladies that continued long after the virus left my body. I wrote about the experience for The Times Magazine earlier this year, wondering if I would ever feel like myself again.
Happily, I seem to be back to normal. But I was uneasy when I got my second vaccination shot three weeks ago, worried about how my body would respond. I sobbed as the nurse stabbed me with a syringe; the next day I curled up in a ball on my bed, overwhelmed with chills and fever. Researchers suggest that the vaccine may help the immune system fight off any lingering residual virus. But the truth is there is still so much we don’t know about Covid.
This month a study tracking the health insurance records of nearly two million people in the United States who contracted the coronavirus last year found that almost one-quarter of them — 23 percent — sought medical treatment for new conditions, including nerve and muscle pain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and fatigue. People of all ages were affected, including children, and problems occurred even among those people who showed no symptoms from the virus.
Doctors are only beginning to study the virus’s long-term effects. In February, the National Institutes of Health announced a $1.15 billion initiative to identify the causes of long Covid, as well as protocols to prevent and treat individuals whose symptoms persist. Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the N.I.H., said then that given the number of individuals who had been infected, “the public health impact could be profound.”
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