WASHINGTON — More and more cases of long COVID-19 are popping up -- people suffering from chronic and long-term pain and illnesses after getting the virus.
In 2020, Chimere Smith, 38, contracted the coronavirus. She had no idea how she got it, and because it was in early March, she wasn’t able to get tested. It would be months of constant pain for the Maryland woman. She was once a healthy person before her health went on a downward spiral after getting the virus.
Smith said she had to visit several doctors before finding a physician who would believe she was experiencing the pain she was in. She’s now been vaccinated and hoping to see some relief.
“After that second dose, I felt horrible. I felt like I was going back to the acute symptoms of having COVID way back in March of last year,” Smith said.
“But there have been some slight improvements, not very many, but my brain fog has started to lift a little bit and a little bit of my neck, shoulder, and spinal pain has eased up a little bit, but it's still, I believe, too early to tell whether there are marked symptom improvements,” Smith added.
Over the last year, she’s seen a myriad of specialists. She’s also found a community of people who are experiencing long COVID symptoms.
“Since April, it's been a year now, I've joined a group called Body Politic. It is an international long COVID support group that I now am a board member of. This group not only supports long COVID members, but it also supports long COVID advocates like myself,” Smith said.
And like Gina Assaf, co-founder and co-lead of the Patient-led Research Collaborative for Long Covid-19 and Admin/Board Member on the Body Politic Support Group. She was once a vibrant and outgoing woman who’s now restricted to the confines of her home.
“I got sick March 20, 2020; and so, you can imagine, you know, hey, I thought, ‘Oh, I'm going to get better, right?’ and my friends got sick around the same time with me, they were getting better. They got better and I was still really sick.” Assaf said.
She’s said simple, rote tasks like going to the grocery store exhaust her. Loves like hiking has become an activity of the past for the 44-year-old.
“I've had a lot of brain fog as well so, and it’s kind of accompanied the fatigue. And you have to rest, to be able to think sharply,” Assaf added.
Now partially vaccinated, Assaf said initially she felt some relief, but most of her symptoms have since returned while she awaits her second shot. Now, she and Smith are both dedicated to conducting patient research and finding other long haulers like them.
“We found out we’re not the only ones who have this,” Assaf said.