- Humanitarian photographer and filmmaker Morgana Wingard is touring the nation to doc the tales of COVID-19 survivors.
- Lots of her topics are “long-haulers,” individuals who expertise systemic, debilitating, and diverse signs even after the SARS-CoV-2 an infection has cleared the physique.
- Wingard’s undertaking, the COVID-19 Survivor Diaries, permits survivors to share their very own journeys to restoration.
In 2014, Morgana Wingard was dwelling in Liberia, West Africa, when an Ebola outbreak overtook the nation. As worry, myths, and misinformation unfold alongside the virus, the photographer-filmmaker began chronicling first-person accounts from survivors to point out the humanity behind the headlines and assist curb the unfold of the virus.
Six years later, when COVID-19 got here to her new residence in New York Metropolis, she applied that data once more with the COVID-19 Survivor Diaries, a documentary sequence that captures the voices of COVID-19.
Over the previous 12 months, Wingard and her husband have interviewed and photographed over 145 survivors of the virus. Their journey started in Brooklyn by social media and expanded to 29 states throughout the U.S. by an ongoing movie undertaking. As tales of restoration and hope transpired, so did tales of survivors who by no means overcame their signs and have been left with residual scars: the COVID-19 long-haulers.
“We depend the individuals who have died, however It’s additionally necessary to recollect the people who find themselves nonetheless coping with COVID—some for months—to make sure they get sufficient care together with therapy and analysis,” Wingard tells Verywell.
She says that survivors play an necessary position in an outbreak as a result of they’re a well-recognized supply that others can belief, and that we should always use their tales to empathize, study, and perceive.
“We’re documenting the tales for historical past so we don’t overlook and we don’t repeat the identical errors,” she says.
Now, Wingard is sharing a take a look at her undertaking with Verywell. In their very own phrases, 5 folks featured within the sequence clarify how COVID-19 has altered their lives. (Excerpts taken with permission from COVID-19 Survivor Diaries. Interviews have been edited for brevity.)
What This Means For You
Ryan, 33 (Atlanta, Georgia)
Day 266 of COVID-induced signs
After lastly feeling higher from my COVID signs, I discovered one other testing middle 50 miles away. The outcome got here again detrimental. I received one other check the subsequent day; it additionally got here out detrimental. I used to be like, “Okay, in line with science, I am good.” I felt relieved.
I went again to work, began instructing my biking lessons and boot camp lessons as if nothing occurred. A few week afterward, I couldn’t breathe once more. It felt like an adolescent was sitting on my chest.
I felt fixed strain. I could not catch my breath strolling up a flight of stairs. It was like winded stars; you’ll see these little mild issues once you really feel lightheaded. I knew it was not regular.
I began to really feel drained. I might train one class and wish to shut my eyes afterward for at least 20 minutes simply to hold on my day. I received scared and paranoid.
We did an MRI, and there was injury to my lungs, which my physician in comparison with a smoker’s lung. Once I received these outcomes again, the world simply crumbled in entrance of my eyes. I used to be like, “Oh my God, I’ve lung injury. Although I by no means smoked a cigarette for a day in my life.”
I had to make use of a nebulizer once more, which I have never used since I used to be 9. Nobody has any solutions to at the present time. I nonetheless really feel like I can not catch my breath. I nonetheless really feel like I am on the verge of an bronchial asthma assault any minute now. However there isn’t any rationalization as to why.
I’ve to make sure that my watch is all the time charged so I can watch my coronary heart price each second when I’m instructing. If it will get too excessive, I’ve to cease and coach.
The one exercises that I can do are barre lessons, yoga, and Pilates, which have a really low impression in your coronary heart price, although mine nonetheless skyrockets to 160.
It has been 266 days.
Whenever you move three or 4 months, the issues develop into neurological. I began to lose my steadiness. I couldn’t bear in mind something. My mind fog is horrible. I can be on the cellphone with my mother and overlook who I’m speaking to. I’ll see my husband feed the canine dinner, however three minutes later I will ask him if he fed the canine. Then two extra minutes after that, I will ask him once more if he has fed the canine. It’s nearly like dementia, and it is scary.
My hair began to fall out in large chunks, so I needed to shave it. I used to be by no means capable of see my scalp earlier than, however now my scalp is seen. I will get up within the morning typically, and I will assume, ‘Is that canine hair, or is that my hair on my pillow?’ It is horrible: It’s completely horrible as a result of there’s nothing you are able to do.
Earlier than you begin discovering individuals who have had it, you might be by yourself in your personal world, being gaslit by society prefer it’s faux. Folks have to cease politicizing it. The virus shouldn’t be political. It does not care should you’re previous or younger. I’m 33, however now I really feel like I’ve the lungs of a 75-year-old.
Donna, 56 (Springfield, Virginia)
Day 367 of COVID-induced signs
Ambulances and fireplace vehicles arrived that evening round 9:30 p.m. I sat downstairs within the pouring rain. The medics stood far-off shouting, “Ma’am keep there. We’ll come to you!” It felt like I had the plague or one thing. I watched them go well with up. Then, I crawled my method up the steps into the ambulance.
That night, I examined optimistic for COVID-19. That evening within the hospital, sitting there, I feared I used to be going to die.
For 2 months after that, I went backwards and forwards to the ER 4 occasions, getting COVID-19 exams and blood work, CT scans, EKGs, and so on. They discovered that I had blood clots, a pulmonary embolism, and tachycardia. I misplaced my sense of style and scent, had fatigue, extreme complications, ringing in ears, joint aches, evening sweats, rashes, insomnia, hair loss, and respiratory points. My coronary heart price would soar to 170 or 180 out of the blue. It was a curler coaster. In the future I felt good; the subsequent day, I might crash all of the sudden. It was like an enormous wave slamming in my face and knocking me again down. I simply couldn’t get my well being again!
This does not examine to something catastrophic that I’ve skilled in my life. This was the worst factor I’ve been by. I by no means had my life threatened like that. I by no means thought it might be me.
I did not see the sunshine on the finish of the tunnel to start with.
When you undergo an expertise like that I believe it places life into perspective for you. I’ve all the time been an enormous advocate of the truth that “you solely have one life,” however till you sweep that floor of possibly dying and being that scared, you begin to actually imagine it. My outlook on the long run has modified.
Chris, 41 (Lake Placid, Florida)
Day 330 of COVID-induced signs
As quickly as they advised me I examined optimistic for COVID in Might, my entire world dropped. I used to be in ache like by no means earlier than. I used to be so scared I might die. One of many worst components of being within the hospital with COVID is listening to folks screaming.
I believed I used to be getting higher, so I went residence once more. After per week or two, I began having bother respiratory once more. I used to be mendacity on my abdomen, and my chest began feeling like I used to be underwater, so I went again to the hospital. It appeared like nearly each different day I am again in.
I advised the physician there that my abdomen was hurting actually unhealthy, and he began telling me that I am mendacity and I am making stuff up. When you’ve gotten COVID, it intensifies all the things, and it causes stuff in your physique to harm that they cannot work out.
At that time, I might already had it for six weeks and misplaced 50 kilos. They advised me that from shedding a lot weight that I used to be shedding muscle mass. I am actually weak. I can’t actually stroll. If I stroll 10 ft, my coronary heart price jumps to 150-160. I attempted to stroll to the toilet one time, and inside 5 seconds, my oxygen dropped from 100 to 78%. I discovered that when it drops to 85, folks often move out, and when it drops to the place mine dropped that day, you possibly can die.
After two or three weeks, I received out. They lastly advised me I used to be COVID detrimental on July 17. So from Might 26 to July 17, I had COVID. I went residence, and inside per week, I ended up again within the hospital. I used to be having bother respiratory once more. They advised me that I used to be nonetheless optimistic for COVID, and that’s one thing I didn’t perceive. How was I detrimental, however then optimistic once more?
I depart. I am going to the hospital once more. I check detrimental. I saved going backwards and forwards. I noticed that I couldn’t get again to regular.
They went forward and did an EGD and so they discovered I had erosion on my abdomen, injury to my abdomen lining, and irritation on my abdomen as a result of I now have continual gastritis. They did a CAT scan and an X-ray and advised me that my lungs have been like shattered glass from COVID.
They began looking for a rehabilitation facility to place me in as a result of they felt like I wanted additional therapy. After eight days, they discovered this different place, and so they transported me right here. That is my third week being right here. They’ve a greater understanding of those who cope with COVID.
I have been doing bodily remedy 4 or 5 days per week on the times I can really do it. I have been in fixed ache, and I have been on oxygen since I have been right here. I am the youngest particular person right here. My roommate earlier than this was 90.
Now it is simply form of like a ready recreation. They’re making an attempt to get my endurance and stuff up and simply proceed to deal with me.
Gail, 46 (Atlanta, Georgia)
Day 370 of COVID-induced signs
I’ve a really vivid reminiscence of the start of the sickness. I used to be popping out of a Kroger, and I received within the automotive, and I had the worst headache of my whole life. It felt like a sinus headache and a migraine mixed. Then I had this big sneeze. I did not assume something of it. That was the start.
I observed that my cognitive processes and speech patterns modified and received interrupted. I had issue forming phrases. Neurological points have been the worst a part of it. I received scared once I began doing issues like somebody would do whereas having a stroke. I mixed phrases. For example, within the yard, I might inform my canine, “Let’s go upside.” I often go upstairs to go inside. To say this, I mixed each phrases just like the wires in my mind crossed.
In the future I lay down for the evening; inside seconds, I could not breathe. My chest tightened, and my coronary heart began racing. I used to be gasping, making an attempt to get air, and I could not get air, and it scared the dwelling daylights out of me. I received away from bed. I nonetheless could not breathe. I in all probability ought to have referred to as an ambulance at that time. I do not know why I did not. I am a yogi, so I began doing pranayama respiratory. I do not know if that’s the reason that it went away. That incident actually shook me. I get a bit of emotional about it, because it was the primary time that I’ve ever questioned if I used to be going to make it.
The restoration was gradual after that. And once I say ‘restoration,’ I imply I used to be not drained after making a cup of tea. The fatigue was actual. Then, the neurological signs began, and the irritability was unreal. My nervous system shouldn’t be the identical. I am extra simply agitated and extra emotional. I can not focus on charged subjects as I can not handle my feelings the identical method both. Folks would say issues, and I might have this inordinate response, a very inappropriate degree of agitation. I might watch myself flip on folks and never have the ability to cease it. I am like, ‘Why am I appearing like this?‘ You possibly can look completely nice and performance properly, relying on the time of day. Within the morning, I am tremendous sharp, however then I can not have actual in-depth conversations after 9:00. Whenever you get actually, actually drained you would possibly get overly emotional or agitated extra shortly.
I really feel that I’m higher, however I do not know if that is pretty much as good because it will get.
Fran, 56 (Englewood, New Jersey)
Day 372 of COVID-induced signs
I began getting signs on March 20 and was hospitalized for pneumonia for 2 weeks. In June, I used to be showering, and after shampooing, clumps of hair began popping out. I began screaming in such a method that my husband needed to are available and ask if one thing was mistaken. I advised him that I used to be shedding my hair. I didn’t perceive why. It was not just a bit little bit of hair: a significant a part of my hair began to come back off. It was not like one thing that comes out of a brush. I used to be in shock.
The second time I showered, extra clumps got here out, and I used to be screaming additional, and I bear in mind sitting on the ground within the lavatory, the water was coming down on me, and I noticed all my hair in my palms, and I simply could not imagine it. Each time I received out of the bathe, extra clumps saved falling out of my hair. I believed I used to be going bald.
All people has one function that they love. For me, it was my hair. I used to get complimented on how thick my hair was, and I did quite a lot of hairstyles each time we went out, however I can’t do something with it now. If it have been someone else’s head, I in all probability have misplaced three to 4 heads of hair or a full head of hair. It took about two months for it to cease. The one factor I can do on daily basis is put on my hair in a ponytail as a result of it is simply strands of hair coming down, and the baldness reveals. The one method for me to be ok with going out is by pulling my hair again.
This was early June, and no one knew about this aspect impact of COVID at the moment. A hair specialist in Manhattan checked out my scalp and advised me it was COVID-related due to the shock to the physique.
Hair is a significant a part of a girl’s femininity. I misplaced that resulting from COVID. I do see stubbles coming again a bit of bit, however it may in all probability take me an excellent two years for my hair to totally develop again. It is higher than shedding a life. When there’s life, there’s hope, and I am glad to be alive.