WBUR - March 10, 2021

I can see it. My husband can see it. My friend, who has been running fevers since May, can see it.

But if I were to hop on a Zoom call with you now, you probably wouldn’t notice. It’s a certain pallor washed across the face, a hollowing out that reveals itself in a delicate but deep crescent crease beneath each eye, shadows a shade of lavender that won’t show in most lighting.

The other day a coworker glimpsed it and texted, after a Zoom meeting, to check in. I’d been having a bad day: the chest compression had returned; a fog flooded my frontal cortex. As I pushed through the workday, my lungs began their telltale ache.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“You looked like you did during those first months,” she replied. “I assumed it was back.”

It had never left. Though by December we’d regained most of our energy, my husband Marc and I still experience symptoms from when we first contracted the coronavirus on a trip to India in March 2020.

At first, the disease was the whisper of a cold that could be brushed away as jet lag, in the days when there were only three reported cases in a country of 1.3 billion. Then, as if awakening with the rest of the Western world to the pandemic’s arrival, it bloomed. Marc and I were both violently ill on our flight back to the States on March 13, the day Trump declared a travel ban. We woke the following morning short of breath.

365 days later, it’s still with us. 

A post-viral syndrome is a hellish disruption, even at its most minor manifestation. When the smallest spark continues to smolder, flaring and receding but never going out, over days, weeks and months, it can burn a hole right through you.

Hell is not only in this disease’s acute and fatal forms; it also exists in its small, unquantifiable losses. And in its unendingness. Just when you think it’s over, it comes on again. ...
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