Cheryl spent almost a month in the hospital with COVID before being discharged a year ago. She thought the worst was behind her, but her symptoms did not improve.
"13 months on, I still have shortness of breath and heart palpitations,” she says. She struggled just to take care of herself, and returning to work was out of the question. She couldn’t climb two flights of stairs and suffered daily with fatigue, nausea, joint pain and insomnia.
Current estimates suggest that nearly a quarter of people suspected of having had COVID-19 still have symptoms 4 weeks after their infections, and 14% still have symptoms 12 weeks post-infection.
When her symptoms persisted, Cheryl didn’t know where to turn. “There was no information for me, and I felt so alone,” she remembers. It was only when she read that the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program was accepting COVID patients that she began to find some measure of relief through breathing exercises and other coping techniques.
“I'm still not the person I used to be, physically, mentally, or emotionally,” Cheryl says. “My lungs are severely scarred and I can’t work or play with my son like I used to. I have to take it not one day at a time, but one morning or one afternoon. Sometimes even one hour.”
For many people living with Long COVID, the fear and uncertainty can be crushing. “This is a life-changer,” Cheryl says, noting that she doesn’t interact with anyone but her husband and son, not even her two adult daughters. “Covid is still very much alive and I'm terrified to contract it again,” she says. “I'm just terrified.”