Note: The Lawrence Times is running this series written by a community member who caught COVID-19 around the beginning of the pandemic in spring of 2020. Sydney Studer is reflecting, documenting and sharing her experience with what has come to be known as “long COVID.”
Chapters 1 and 2 of this series are being published together. Look for future chapters in the coming days and weeks.
2: Tinkerbell the greyhound
COVID seemed to throw everything I thought I knew about myself out of a third-story window. I watched it fall and crash and splay out for everyone to see. I wasn’t getting better.
It came to be known as “long COVID,” experienced by people whose symptoms lingered for weeks or months, sometimes becoming completely debilitating. We also began referring to ourselves as “long-haulers” or “COVID long-haulers.”
I had shortness of breath so bad that I could not speak more than one sentence without taking a big, deep breath right in the middle of it. I stopped answering my cell phone because I could not talk without the deep breaths.
I had headaches every single day for months on end. My appetite was very off, and my smell and taste had gone. I had COVID so early, loss of smell and taste weren’t recognized as symptoms yet, and it took a while for me to put two and two together in that regard.
As my long COVID wore on, the fatigue was so horrible, I would sleep for 14 hours after a walk down the street to the stop sign by my house.
However, the first few weeks I had COVID, in April and May, I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep. Bouts of insomnia are a common symptom among long-haulers. I had never dealt with insomnia. I didn’t know how to.
On the nights I couldn’t sleep, I’d be up listening to my sweet dog Tinkerbell breathe in and out on her bed next to mine. Sometimes she would make these little “yip, yip” noises in her sleep while her paws twitched, and I imagined she was chasing rabbits in her dreams.
It made me sad to listen to Tink dream, because I was so worried I’d never be able to care for her the way she deserved.
I couldn’t stand long enough to take her for a walk. The only walks she got were walking up and down the sidewalk in front of my apartment so she could go to the bathroom. Sometimes, all I could do was stand against my apartment building on the side with the grass, and give her the radius of her leash to do her business.
I wanted her to know how sorry I was that I couldn’t give her more.
She rewarded me, however, by resisting walks longer than 10 or 15 minutes. She loathes them. On the days I felt a little better and I tried to walk her for longer, she’d protest in the middle of the street. She’d stop walking and stare at me, as if to ask, “Well, aren’t you going to pick me up and carry me home now?”
Tink loathing her walks made me feel so much better, because I felt less inadequate. I had adopted Tink a few weeks before getting COVID, and although she never enjoyed super-long walks anyway, I swear she started to detest even the shortest of walks when I was sick.
It’s like she knew I couldn’t go that far, so she decided she’d pretend to not like them. Or maybe she just really didn’t like walks, and it was a win-win for both of us. Either way, she’s my best girl.
— Sydney Studer (she/her) lives in the Kansas City metro with her two rescue greyhounds and fiancé. She is a runner who loves game nights with her friends and sitting by the fire pit on a cool night. Long COVID derailed her running, but she is getting back to it, one day at a time.