The unheard side of COVID-19: Long haulers

By Kelsey Lansing (TheLorian)

Almost everyone knows and has heard about COVID-19, but do they know about a fraction of people who suffer from COVID-19 that call themselves long haulers? Sara Hosch, a Dubuque County resident, has been dealing with symptoms of COVID-19 since March 17, right around the time that large events started to be cancelled around the world. She dealt with months of symptoms ranging from shortness of breath and chest congestion to extreme fatigue and brain fog. 

Lives have been upturned because of a virus, leaving people unable to lead a normal life or even get out of bed for that matter. Hosch is not alone in this, as tens of thousands of people have reported similar experiences. These people call themselves “long haulers”, appropriately dubbed as they can suffer weeks or months at the hand of COVID-19. Symptoms for long haulers are much like that of everyone else, however, for long haulers they can suffer from a bigger variety of symptoms and still deal with a lot of issues even after COVID-19 has run its course. According to Hosch, some of these symptoms may include a continued loss of taste and smell, brain fog, headache, muscle aches, pins and needles feeling, and extreme fatigue.

The current understanding society has of COVID-19 is based on the idea that this virus will be mild for most people, lasting only a week or so. While this may be true, long haulers and those with pre-existing conditions are excluded from that. Hosch’s initial symptoms were mild with a sore throat and sinus infection, which was inconsistent with the official CDC description. Due to this, Hosch was unable to be tested through Test Iowa as she was lacking the “common” symptoms of COVID-19.  After about 9 weeks of being ill, she finally was able to be tested and the result was negative. Due to this her doctors continuously prescribed antibiotics and steroids to treat her illness. After two chest x-rays and a CT scan, it was finally determined by a pulmonologist in Dubuque, that what Hosch was suffering from was COVID-19. It is unknown why the first test came back as negative for Hosch, there are many long-haulers who have been tested multiple times, with each coming back positive. It was an uphill struggle for Hosch and many other long haulers to be taken seriously. This was largely due to the fact that people simply do not know that long haulers exist.

Long haulers are battling not only the virus, but also with trying to make people understand what they are going through. Many of the long haulers turned to online support groups where they could share their experiences and receive support. One group on Facebook titled “Survivor Corps” has a little over 102 thousand members. Hosch is one of those members and describes the group as a moral support and educational page. For her it was refreshing to see that she was not alone in the length and severity of her illness.

Coping with any illness is never easy, but with everyone being so unfamiliar with COVID-19 it makes everything a little worse. For those suffering from COVID-19, it is a physical and mental challenge. Waking up every morning completely exhausted and having the inability to breath properly, it can be scary. After regaining much of her normal function back, Hosch accredits her support system for helping her through.

Next time when you hear that someone is suffering or has suffered from COVID-19, don’t take it lightly. The truth may be that they are struggling to get through this illness both physically and mentally. Support them in any way you can, whether that be listening to them, doing your research, grabbing groceries, and overall offering moral support.

If you or someone you know are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 follow the CDC guidelines and seek medical attention. If you are experiencing any anxiety based around COVID-19, there are resources that are available.  Reach out to your support group or contact the Counseling Center on campus for assistance.

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Kelsey Lansing is the Excecutive Editor for The Lorian.

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