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HEAR FROM REAL PEOPLE

The consequences of COVID-19 have rippled throughout the world and touched so many, in so many ways. From tragedy and trauma to hope and inspiration, the following stories provide firsthand, real-life accounts that spotlight the unique impact COVID-19 and the use of vaccines has had on individuals. You'll hear details of the challenges they met and losses they suffered, along with the support systems and resources that fueled their courage and resilience. By sharing these experiences, we hope to learn from and lean on each other as we move forward on our journeys through COVID-19.

Everyone has a COVID-19 story; we encourage you to share yours.

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I spent a lot of the early days of COVID-19 terrified due to the fact that my daughter was a premature infant and that in addition to that my husband...

Deb, Age Range 55-64
From Virginia

In October 2020, Maria—an active 41-year-old woman—arrived at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, with COVID-19 and double pneumonia.

Maria, Age Range 35-44
From Maryland

Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic was like nothing I’d ever experienced. The way our lives changed in such a short amount of time was nothing less than traumatic.

Fernando, Age Range 35-44
From Florida

My husband is a diabetic who is also recovering from kidney cancer. We’ve been vaccinated since we could get in line and have continued with follow-up shots.

Mary, Age Range 55-64
From Maryland

I took precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19. But despite my efforts, I was infected, and the timing couldn’t have been worse.

Gary, Age Range 65+
From Florida

My family was impacted early on in the COVID-19 pandemic when my parents both contracted it. I was forced to take a leave of absence ...

Matt, Age Range 45-54
From Massachusetts

I never imagined that COVID-19 would almost take the life of my 41-year-old healthy daughter and change our family in many ways.

Monica, Age Range 65+
From Maryland

In January 2022, I brought my mom home to Fort Lauderdale after her visit with us in North Florida. After the 7-hour drive, as we were pulling in, I began to feel terrible.

Nanette, Age Range 55-64
From Florida

I am widowed and live alone, so COVID is still scary and uncertain for me. My daughter came to visit often (she lives 7 hours away) ...

Agnes, Age Range 65+
From Florida

Before I got sick … I was a multitasking super mom and entrepreneur, I ran two businesses, volunteered at my church and multiple charities while …

Cynthia, Age 37
From Virginia

I spent a lot of the early days of COVID-19 terrified due to the fact that my daughter was a premature infant and that in addition to that my husband and I are also immunocompromised. As my husband was working in-office due to being in the intelligence sector, we had him coming home from work each day and removing clothing at our front door before heading to the shower. This went on for the better part of a year before he moved jobs and was set up in a different scenario that allowed him to work from home specific days of the week to limit contact of the team members overall. It worked and as we got our vaccinations, we felt things get a bit easier day by day. By July 2022, I was ready to travel for business overseas. Sadly, I came home on a plane where COVID-19 was apparently rampant. All three of us got sick. My daughter did well, but my husband and I were really run down for about a week or two.

Knowing that I have lowered lung abilities, I was naturally terrified upon getting sick that I could potentially die from this illness.

For me, the vaccinations are what kept me out of the ICU, out of the hospital and out of the doctor’s office. I also thank our primary doctor, as well as my immunologist, for acting so quickly to help us. Science won that round and as a result, I did too. I have ZERO lasting effects from COVID-19.

Deb, Age Range 55-64
From Virginia

In October 2020, Maria—an active 41-year-old woman—arrived at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, with COVID-19 and double pneumonia. A staggering 130 days later, Maria returned to her family. At the hospital, she spent 69 days on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a form of life support) and more than 100 days on a ventilator. Maria was lucky to be at a hospital with advanced technologies and experienced doctors. Learn more about her journey and the deep relationships that were formed between the care team and her family.

Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic was like nothing I’d ever experienced. The way our lives changed in such a short amount of time was nothing less than traumatic. Relationships were strained, our personal abilities to manage stress were tested, and our worlds became smaller than we could ever have imagined. Like so many, I spent the majority of the pandemic trying to avoid getting sick. I didn’t attend events, I was careful any time I left the house or interacted with others, I limited my travel and recreational activities that involved more people than just my immediate family—it was not easy. When vaccines became available, I jumped at the opportunity and followed through with boosters when they became available. When I finally did contract COVID-19, two and a half years into the pandemic, I believe the immunity the vaccine helped me achieve resulted in less severe and shorter lasting symptoms.

I believe most of my challenges (short term and long term) have been emotional and psychological. You can’t just go from what was normal to what was nowhere near normal and then expect to bounce right back again. This has been and continues to be a journey filled with mixed feelings.

COVID-19 vaccination was part of my plan along with frequent hand washing.

Fernando, Age Range 35-44
From Florida

My husband is a diabetic who is also recovering from kidney cancer. We’ve been vaccinated since we could get in line and have continued with follow-up shots. My husband is in sales and for the last three years has been primarily working from home, which I believe has helped protect us. A few months ago, his employer told him to start knocking on doors to drum up business. My husband did as instructed. A week later, he was diagnosed with COVID, could not breathe well (severely congested), fever, chills, etc. We held on to the knowledge that we were up to date with our vaccinations and would get through the illness.

I could not take care of him as I normally would during this time. I was very concerned his symptoms would get worse and he would be hospitalized, or worse. I was also concerned that I would be infected and not be able to help him—or him me—during this time. Thankfully, I was not infected.

We tried to convince others to get vaccinated. We tried to consistently tell everyone how we were getting boosted, how it was just part of our normal routine and "not a big deal." This actually convinced my husband's sister to get vaccinated. We found that once we made our friends and family aware of these things, they seemed to feel reassured and then would get vaccinated on their own.

Get vaccinated. Stay updated on COVID vaccinations. There may not be a cure, but my husband likely would not have survived this illness if he wasn't up to date with his vaccinations. I am grateful for the science and the fact that I can share my story.

Mary, Age Range 55-64
From Maryland

I took precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19. But despite my efforts, I was infected, and the timing couldn’t have been worse. I got sick during the holidays, and it cost me precious time with family. Thankfully, because I had been vaccinated, I don't believe I got seriously ill. I know others my age that have not been as fortunate.

Anytime you receive the diagnosis of COVID-19, it creates anxiety since we are not sure how our bodies will respond. However, since I was vaccinated, I did not think I'd suffer severe symptoms.

Like many people, I have received many vaccinations in my life, including annual flu shots. Our health and safety should be our top priorities.

Gary, Age Range 65+
From Florida

My family was impacted early on in the COVID-19 pandemic when my parents both contracted it. I was forced to take a leave of absence from my finance job in Boston and travel to upstate NY to care for them while hospitalized. They recovered over time, but it cost me a great deal of stress (and vacation time) and being away from my family was a burden, as was the stress of the unknown as to their recovery. Upon returning to work (and home) my family and I were infected and had varying degrees of debilitation due to the infection. It’s amazing how much COVID impacted my marriage, career and mental health. We still feel impacted.

I think the best advice is to protect oneself the best ways possible, including getting vaccinated, discussing with your doctor what's appropriate for you and arming families with credible information and education to make the most-informed health decisions possible.

Matt, Age Range 45-54
From Massachusetts

I never imagined that COVID-19 would almost take the life of my 41-year-old healthy daughter and change our family in many ways. In October 2020, my daughter was diagnosed with COVID-19 and double pneumonia. After 10 days and several doctor and hospital visits, she called the ambulance and was rushed to the ICU at a local hospital. Her oxygen level was low. The doctors thought she was understanding what was going on, but the lack of oxygen was impacting her ability to understand the gravity of her illness. We were not allowed to see her, and she was so sick she rarely answered the phone. After two weeks, I received a call that she needed to be intubated, placed on a ventilator, and transferred to a larger hospital to have any chance at survival. The next 110 days would be a fight for survival. My husband, other daughter and I were having to make critical medical decisions without being able to see my daughter. The doctors weren’t hopeful she would survive, and best-case scenarios would change her life completely. She was placed on a machine called ECMO which was doing the work of her lungs outside of her body. She was in bed and sedated for over 3 months. We got several calls letting us know she wasn’t going to make it and to start making plans. I refused to give up even as her lungs collapsed several times, and she contracted several infections. We met with the doctors via Zoom weekly and for weeks there was little to no change. In late January, her lungs finally began improving after 69 days on ECMO and 70 days on a ventilator. I was finally able to visit as she woke up and went through ICU delirium and drug withdrawals. After weeks of recovery and physical therapy, she came home after 130 days. It’s been over two years and the conversations with the doctors still haunt me. I replay them and can’t believe it actually happened. The week after my daughter came home, we lost my closest cousin and dear friend in Ecuador to COVID-19 where healthcare wasn’t as advanced. It was incredibly difficult to be sad for her and happy for my daughter at the same time.

The hardest part for us was the unknown. We still don’t know the long-term impact of COVID-19 and we knew very little in 2020. The doctors were trying anything they could think of to save people. We were lucky my daughter made it when so many other families lost their loved ones. As a family we faced isolation and couldn’t be supported by friends and family as we normally would have. There is deep trauma from the near loss of someone so close to me and family and the types of conversations and decisions that had to be made. Facing the near death of a child is incredibly difficult and it was worse during COVID-19. I don’t think any of us will ever be the same.

Vaccines need to be made accessible and education should address the needs of specific communities. I want others to know that a vaccination could make the difference between staying alive or not! We now talk to our friends and family about the importance of vaccination, and we are always looking for opportunities to share my daughter’s miraculous story of survival.

Monica, Age Range 65+
From Maryland

In January 2022, I brought my mom home to Fort Lauderdale after her visit with us in North Florida. After the 7-hour drive, as we were pulling in, I began to feel terrible. I had been extra cautious since she was visiting us for several weeks, but we’d gone out to restaurants and removed our masks to eat. I knew there was a risk associated with being indoors. Before going to her house, I stopped at a drug store and got COVID-19 tests, which was positive for us both. I was grateful to have the opportunity to have information I needed via testing. I stayed with her for 10 days, taking care of her and myself, until I was negative. It was challenging but I made the best of it and enjoyed meals outside and just resting and relaxing. My nighttime body aches felt the worst.

Since having COVID-19 over a year ago, I have struggled with fatigue that just won’t go away. I am working to improve my fitness and nutrition goals so I can overcome this COVID-19 symptom that has lingered.

NANETTE, Age Range 55-64
From Florida

I am widowed and live alone, so COVID is still scary and uncertain for me. My daughter came to visit often (she lives 7 hours away) and she brought me often to her home so I could be around people since I was missing the opportunity to see my friends weekly like I used to. This helped to reduce the isolation I felt, but the immediate effects have lingered. I became more depressed and anxious because all my social activities stopped. Finding and properly using masks became a priority, and going out in public was very scary initially. Once vaccines were made available, many of us senior citizens were relieved and felt life begin to return to more of a normal situation. I am grateful for all the research and expedited work that was done to deliver vaccines.

The challenges of social separation, depression and anxiety as a result of COVID are not totally behind me.

In my opinion, communication with your family and doctors, staying healthy and keep moving, using the outdoors as a safer place to gather, celebrate and exercise are helpful ways to get through this COVID-19 journey.

Agnes, Age Range 65+
From Florida

Cynthia contracted COVID-19 in March of 2020. Unfortunately, her suffering intensified when she transitioned into a severe case of long COVID that led to multiple emergency room visits and hospital stays and left her permanently disabled. During her attempts to receive medical care for her long COVID symptoms, Cynthia experienced medical racism from emergency room staff. But she did not give up. Instead, she began to fight.

Cynthia became a dedicated health advocate and is committed to helping others with long COVID receive the care they desperately need. She also became a champion of the COVID-19 Long Haulers Act and spoke alongside the bill's sponsors, Representative Don Byer and Representative Jack Bergman.

Congressman James Clyburn recently invited Cynthia to give her sworn testimony on her experience with COVID-19 and medical racism before the House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. Below are excerpts from her testimony.

"Before I got sick … I was a multitasking super mom and entrepreneur, I ran two businesses, volunteered at my church and multiple charities while home-schooling my young son. Unfortunately, I can no longer serve or work in the capacity I used to, because from time to time, my body becomes overwhelmed with nausea, dizziness, intermittent paralysis, crippling joint pain, and unexpectedly high heart rate ...

I was unexpectedly thrust into advocacy stemming from a blatant racially biased incident in September of 2020. While being a wheelchair-dependent person at the time, I was threatened with arrest by emergency room hospital staff while seeking medical help for an episode of dangerously low oxygen and high heart rate. The same hospital had tested me for illicit drug use without my knowledge three times prior."

In subsequent hospital visits, Cynthia again experienced medical racism and was denied treatment for her symptoms. Cynthia and her 7-year-old son both continue to suffer from long COVID but refuse to give up hope.

CYNTHIA, Age 37
From Virginia