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First person: Living with long COVID

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COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests. (Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images)
COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests. (Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images)

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Long COVID is generally defined as having symptoms that persist for more than four weeks.

Hanna Tripp has lived with COVID symptoms since March 2020, just as the pandemic began.

HANNA TRIPP: I started feeling sick, but I didn't have a very significant case of COVID. At that time, they were saving the tests for people that were just ... on death's door. So, like, there wasn't any real way to kind of verify it. You know, I just kind of showed up to the ER.

The third time I went, they found out that I had COVID and I was admitted to the hospital. I was there for about three days. I had to take a week off after being in the hospital. And then when I got back, I'd work a couple days, but then the symptoms were just too much. Then I have to take a couple of days off and I'm doing all these exams, and tests and they're kind of coming back negative. And you know there's something wrong with you.

And you start having employers kind of doubt you, because you don't have this diagnosis. And your family members kind of wondering, Did you just burn yourself out? Or like, Are you just stressed? It's really difficult to be the only one that really knows that something's wrong. You keep on connecting to the doctor to be like, I'm still symptomatic.

But it's been a couple of months. And they're telling you, Well, COVID only lasts like a month, tops. This is like a month in. You're kind of like, Well, how do you know it only lasts a month, if we've only been in this for like a month or two? And then, you know, two months later they'd say, Well, COVID only lasts like six weeks, topping two months. And so it can't be COVID.

You know, at that point, I had a pulmonologist that reached kind of the end of the rope, but they didn't really know what else to do. I had a cardiologist that reached the end of the rope, that didn't really know what to do.

So I think at that point, and I think this is just part of the medical career field overall, there just isn't a lot of time to spend with patients. During that period, there was even less time, and I feel like doctors will recognize that we don't really know anything about the human body.

Like our knowledge about anatomy is just so small. But also at the same time, fail to accept that. Because they spent eight years fully understanding the human body. But I think that gives you a tunnel vision where you need to be able to define everything.

And if you can't define it, it's not a problem with the system. It's a problem with the person.

It's still with me. It's better than what it was previously, but it very much dictates my life. You know, right now I still have difficulties driving. ... You know, I don't want to run into somebody. There's days where it's very difficult for me to get out of bed. Brain fog is something that kind of comes and goes.

So there'll be days where I can, you know, barely remember just basic facts about, like, this person's name or even just like what I did this morning. It's so weird to just feel good about being diagnosed with bad news. This is something that is going to be with me for the rest of my life, there is no cure to get back to where you were.

But just to have that validation. Now, you can actually start working towards trying to mitigate some of the symptoms. So I think out of that time experience, the day I actually got diagnosed, it was just this almost kind of liberation.

In this first person ... We heard from:

Hanna Tripp, long COVID sufferer and Air Force veteran. She spoke with us from her home in Salem, Massachusetts.

Stefano Kotsonis Senior Producer, On Point
Stefano Kotsonis is a senior producer for WBUR's On Point.

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Tim Skoog Sound Designer and Producer, On Point
Tim Skoog is a sound designer and producer for On Point.

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