22 years old - Westfield, New Jersey
Reina contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 and was extremely sick until June 2020. She thought that those three months were the worst she had felt in her life, but she had no idea that what was about to come would be far worse. By September, she knew that something was seriously wrong; Reina realized that she was a COVID-19 long hauler.
She woke up every day absolutely exhausted. It felt like she had run a marathon before even brushing her teeth. By the time she made breakfast, she felt like she couldn't make it through the rest of the day with her eyes open. It was terrifying, as she used to be the kind of person who packed her schedule from morning till evening with schoolwork, jobs, classes, exercise, volunteering, hanging out with friends, and hobbies.
Before Reina became a COVID-19 long hauler, she exercised almost seven days a week. She loved the energy and adrenaline of exercise, but she had to give it up because of COVID-19. Reina tried to go for a run and after a few blocks she had to stop because of severe chest pain. For the first time in her life, she knew what it felt like to truly be gasping for air.
Since the fall of 2020, Reina has suffered from fatigue, head pain, migraines, brain fog, head pressure, chest pain, inability to exercise, dizziness, and more.
From countless doctors visits to being in and out of the hospital, this has been the most difficult experience of her life. It is incredibly challenging to wake up every morning scared of what symptom will derail your day. Friends and family have tried to understand, but when you are young, people expect you to push through. COVID-19 long haul is not something that anyone can just “push through.”
Before COVID-19, Reina was an active, healthy person with no prior health conditions. She wants her life back. She wants to be able to wake up in the morning energized and ready for the day. She wants to hang out with friends without debilitating head pain. She wants to go to the grocery store without being so dizzy she needs to sit down.
The medical community has been too slow to respond to the needs of long haulers, and many of us have been forced to take our care into our own hands. Reina has spent countless hours researching treatments and doctors that can help. She is committed to healing herself and finding solutions that work for her. She believes that she can come out of this journey healthier than she has ever been, but she considers herself a lucky long hauler. Many of us have symptoms so severe that there seems to be no end in sight.
Reina is finding treatments that work for her, but there is no silver bullet. Every day is a challenge. From being on a strict whole food plant based diet to essential oils to many other solutions, there's a lot of trial and error with very little guidance from the medical community.
As vaccines are being rolled out and people feel like the pandemic is over, Reina hopes that our stories can remind people that for millions of us, this pandemic is not even close to over. For long haulers, this has been the hardest experience of our lives and we are still battling this disease every day.