It’s Been 365 Days Since COVID-19 Changed Me Forever.

I am a COVID-19 Long Hauler and I have been sick for a year. March 15, 2020 was the day I first became symptomatic, with a sore throat as my first symptom. Little did I know that March 14th, 2020 would be my last day of normalcy and life as I knew it. I contracted COVID-19 working as a Firefighter/ Paramedic (FF/PM) in South Florida and contracted it not from a patient, but from someone at the station I sat next to for 10 hours a day at the time, before masks, and before we even knew COVID-19 was anywhere in the U.S besides at that Washington State nursing home. My acute infection was a moderate case that I was able to manage at home, though there were a few days I was very concerned. Thoughts of going to a hospital were driven by my extreme fight to maintain consciousness, which in hindsight, was likely due to the silent hypoxia many COVID-19 patients face. I also experienced a relentless headache, fatigue, weakness, fever, cough, confusion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, insomnia and shortness of breath after coughing fits or with any activity as simple as adjusting my covers in bed or walking up one flight of stairs. I quarantined for two weeks, and then returned to work where I still struggled cognitively, with fatigue, with shortness of breath, with a cough and the relentless headache. Seven of us at my station had gotten COVID-19 together, and two others besides myself, were struggling with recovery when we all returned.

Left: Lisa O’Brien and her chilren. Top Right: Lisa hiking in Arches National Park, Moab, Utah. Bottom Right: Lisa on a work trip with the environmental team to assess the health of the fish in the Green River.
This was my sons 12th birthday at the Miami Zoo and my first outing in a year. I was really down about having to use an electric scooter for they day, just to be able to attend. Sometimes letting go makes you stronger than trying to hold on. We enjoyed the day safely by distancing ourselves from others and double masking.
Left: Amy Watson and her daughter. Center/ Right: Amy Watson teaching her students in Preschool and Pre-K.
The numbers in the top row are the norms. The numbers in the bottom row are mine, a year post-infection.
Utah DOH Long Covid Awareness Campaign with Lisa O’Brien seen on the Billboard. This is one example of the public, mainstream messaging we need.
The life I used to be able to live and enjoy pre-COVID-19 infection, and the life I hope to return to.

Founder: Covid-19 Longhauler Advocacy Project & Long COVID State Advocates & Special populations, Co-Founder: Long Covid Alliance. FF/PM, B.S, Educator, Mom.

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