Nothing is the same and everything is different. Here we are more than two years into the devastating virus, and for many families the tragedy of an early death became reality. The numbers keep changing, and it’s really not about numbers, it’s people’s lives.
COVID touched everyone in different ways, and depending on what State you were in, our country’s numbers varied and guidelines changed. Some followed guidelines, but others didn’t. Many suffered while others refused to believe this was really happening.
What has become a reality is the vaccines are working and the boosters even more so. The questions and the answers may not be what everyone wants to hear, but all the same help is there if only the masses would listen to what others are saying.
Many wonder if in time we will be back to business as usual while others are saying this might be the new normal. There are studies and graphs to help people understand what has happened and what might be coming our way. But for the most part, consistent information would be helpful, but at this point in time, the questions outweigh the answers.
Certainly, it would have been wonderful if we could have waved a magic wand and this horrible trauma we were all facing would go away just as quickly as it began. However, that didn’t happen, nor could it, and we are still questioning how this could have happened. Are we going to face the dilemma of unknown illnesses in the future? That seems to be what is on many people’s minds.
As the days pass, more and more people are not only facing physical problems, but the mental well-being of our world is at stake. Globally, we may be different in many ways, but we are now brought together by COVID.
Most people recover, however, some people continue to experience a condition called Long-COVID. There are many studies concerning the longterm effects COVID has on organs, but for many it isn’t just their organs affected but the isolation they feel and the sorrow of losing their loved ones or not being there when they needed them.
COVID has brought tremendous sadness and despair into their lives. These people were healthy, normal adults and children, but when COVID entered their lives, the effects for months after their recovery brought on waves of unhappiness and isolation.
Unfortunately, we are not out of the woods yet, but we are moving in the right direction. It may take more time, but my belief is that we will get there.
Upon deciding to do this story, I thought it would be beneficial to share four different stories from individuals from different parts of the United States on how COVID affected their lives from the beginning until now.
Carol Solomon Proesel
Carol is a 14-year Breast Cancer Survivor, and has been the guest host for several years on Michigan Avenue Media Podcasts during the month of October in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. She has always been an advocate for early detection and the importance of mammograms. Her concern for COVID began at the very onset because she has always been proactive.
Carol’s reaction to COVID:
I live in Florida and COVID has affected us greatly here. Many of our businesses shut down briefly, so I felt it was up to me to protect myself and others.
I did receive all the vaccines and booster shots. Being a Cancer survivor, I always take precautions as necessary. So far, I have not had COVID, and I am thankful for that.
Unfortunately, many of my friends and family have not been so lucky. Even though they were vaccinated, they still got COVID. Some were hit pretty hard and still suffer. Some were just mildly affected and recovered quickly. One passed away, and that was unfortunate. COVID has put me in a position to not socialize as much anymore, but I continue to wear a mask and distance myself from others.
I hope with all the new warnings coming out that everyone takes this seriously.
COVID is here to stay, and all we can do is to be as diligent as possible to move forward.
Marta is an author, marketing consultant, and a podcast host who shares her love of life with her guests. When she writes, she walks in the shoes of her characters and weaves the tapestry of their lives with the threads of her dreams.
She wanted to help with this story and let people all over the globe understand the pain and the anguish she and her family endured.
Just before COVID hit as a national and world pandemic, we had just finished moving into our new home in a rural area of Massachusetts. We knew no one, didn’t know the area, and had spent nearly two years already in isolation living in motels, renting small apartments, and waiting for our house to get finished.
By the time we were finally able to raise our heads and get to know a few people, COVID hit. Massachusetts was one of the first states to see cases and a mask mandate, along with a state of emergency being declared in March of twenty-twenty. Thus began life under COVID. Isolated from meeting anyone in the area, despite spending the previous two years without friends or family around. Things were rough already, and we both needed to find our way around. There are few neighbors around, all liking their privacy already with their own little groups.
It turned out that we had moved into an area that was about half antivaxxers, and anti-maskers, and even though many still wore masks, you didn’t know who was who.
I clearly remember going to Lowes to buy some tomato cages and being stalked through the parking lot by an unmasked young woman and her big dog. She screamed at me and ended up calling the police because I raised my handbag in defense, trying to get her to move out of my space. I did not hit her with it. If I had, I’m sure her dog would have attacked me.
After the police took both statements, I left as quickly as possible while she was still screaming that I assaulted her (which I didn’t) at the police. That evening, she had her friends hop on a post on Facebook and began stalking me. I ended up calling the police to get her name so that I could block her and her friends. From that time forward, I kept my head down, never met anyone’s eyes, didn’t speak to anyone except to cashiers those few times I went out with pleasantries and please and thank you’s.
For the next two years we were nearly isolated, only talking to each other. My husband would visit with his son now and then, but they lived an hour and a half away.
I remember driving to six different stores to find toilet paper, paper towels, and other necessities. Our spare time was spent trying to find essentials for daily living. One would have thought we had a lot of spare time, but I thank the fact that we have horses to take care of, a lawn, garden, a bit of a forest behind us to walk in.
The town was pretty much closed except for essential workers, neighbors didn’t socialize with each other, and no one spoke to anyone they didn’t know.
I lost respect for some I had known for years because they had an attitude of ‘well he was older, so he’d have died anyway’ and didn’t get vaccinated when it became available. You learn a lot about those you thought you knew when suddenly you find out they care nothing for the well-being of others, not even family members.
Living in a new area, knowing no one, you don’t meet anyone, you don’t socialize, and something changes in you.
I know COVID made me appreciate many things I have in my life that aren’t material, but it also made me more reclusive, less able to feel comfortable meeting new people, and wary of those I do meet. I still retain an attitude of friendliness toward my fellow man, though it is at arm’s length now.
Will it ever change back for me? I don’t know. I do know that during the nineteen-nineteen to nineteen-twenty pandemic it took a few years for most to become social again. So perhaps I will follow that pattern, except I will continue to care about people, but keep my socializing to a minimum.
I began a new job in the town hall two weeks ago, and am friendly with everyone, but don’t share much about me. I do know COVID put a split in this area between those who care about others and those who care only about their own wants. I hope that will change.
Eleanor Parker Sapia
West Virginia, USA
Eleanor Parker Sapia is a novelist, poet, artist, blogger, and photographer. Eleanor lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second historical novel, The Laments, set in 1926 Puerto Rico.
Eleanor’s thoughts on how she has managed to survive during COVID, as difficult as it was, and still is.
Three years on, two annual vacations to Puerto Rico, two vaccines, and two boosters later, I have managed to duck contracting COVID-19. I am a member of the No COVID Club. This morning, I administered an at-home COVID test after a ten day vacation in my home country of Puerto Rico. I tested negative. I am relieved.
Whether or not folks have tested positive for COVID, most people I know, including myself, are still cautious and judicious about where we shop, dine, and how we travel. I still avoid dining indoors and in large gatherings. When I leave the house, I wear a mask and keep hand sanitizer in my purse.
A few friends and family members who contracted COVID have shared that they are glad to have had the disease as they have shored up antibodies against hospitalization (and death) with a potential future infection. That could be true. Me? I do not want the disease. I deal with daily autoimmune issues, thank you very much.
Physically, I have escaped the virus. Emotionally, I know the stress of quarantining and doing lockdown solo for a year and a half with my dog—has affected me. Before the pandemic, I lived alone by choice. It’s another matter entirely to be forced to live alone. Of course, it affected my emotional health. These days, I am a bit more anxious, less happy-go-lucky, less impulsive, and more reactive
to bad behavior than before the pandemic.
My daily decision making now involves questions such as: ‘should I fly or drive to that wedding?’ ‘Do I need brown sugar bad enough to go to the store today?’ ‘What did she really mean by that?’ ‘Should I travel to Puerto Rico this summer?’ ‘Is it time to begin accepting dinner dates and in-person book events to market my two books?’ Much thought and deliberation about potential risk is always involved. To some, this may sound a bit much, but to me, it feels weirdly “normal” in light of the state of the world and current events.
In 2020, I read an article that stopped me in my tracks. It spoke about men, women, and children in quarantine around the world living with their abuser(s). Folks were living with spouses or significant others, who in “normal” times, they would have left, separated from, or fled from. They were staying put for various reasons—fear, economic dependence, toxic emotional attachments, perceived safety. Tensions ran high. Best friends stopped speaking. Families took opposite sides politically. Children, who are dependent on stable adults to handle and maneuver unknown or dangerous situations, found themselves living with stressed out parents and caregivers, and dealing with at-home learning with stressed out teachers. All were doing their best. It wasn’t easy. Some folks lost control of themselves.
The rates of domestic violence in the United States and Puerto Rico during 2020-2121 rose to frightening proportions. Murders of transsexual people reached dangerous levels in Puerto Rico. Femicides rose dramatically. Tragically, around the world, femicide is not new. However, during 2020-2021, when people were losing their jobs, their homes, their livelihood, their minds, the numbers reached an ungodly, unacceptable number. For me, it was frightening to watch what was happening to women, and ultimately, to their children and families.
Committed, selfless social workers, mental health therapists, nurses, medical specialists, laboratory workers, hospital staff, surgeons, and doctors have been incredible during this global pandemic. Absolute heroes. They have experienced high rates of burnout. They are exhausted.
Health systems around the world were pushed beyond safe, sane limits. In Puerto Rico, doctors and nurses and medical specialists fled the island to the United States seeking better paying jobs.
Currently, the US economy seems unstable. I believe we are in a recession. We are paying soaring gas prices and often dealing with limited food products on grocery shelves. Europe is experiencing global warming with insanely high temperatures and fires across the continent. What’s next? I asked that question last month.
While millions of us may have escaped COVID infection, hospitalization, and death, none of us have come away unscathed, unaffected. Not one of us. I will never forget the 6.38 millions of souls who lost their lives in this global pandemic.
Be kind. Practice patience. Breathe. Wear your mask. Get the two vaccines and available boosters. Laugh often. Make your mental health a priority. Live simply. Plant a garden. Choose peace.
Most importantly, consider advocating to make COVID vaccines and boosters available to every single person on our planet. It’s vitally important to take care of everyone.
Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer, and novelist who resides in Seattle Washington.
Jack’s Story is much more complicated because he was extremely ill. His view comes from his journey.
For nineteen days, I was out of commission with COVID-19.
COVID isn’t like any disease, flu, cold, or bacterium you have ever had or heard of.
COVID is an equal partner in destruction, death, and, the worst—Long-COVID. Called “recovered and or/ discharged.”
The fact is that COVID does not let you recover. As it begins, COVID attacks the human body on different levels and systems: lungs, brain, liver, heart, kidneys, blood. And there is nothing you can do. In the early days, unless you were rich, politically connected, or privileged, there was no medication, no treatment. If you were admitted to an urgent/ emergency care unit, the attendants would hydrate you, check your vitals, take blood, select a CT or MRI, but beyond that, there was nothing that any medical professional could do. You waited. You hoped you didn’t die.
You waited to see which of your already weakened systems would fail first.
At the moment of crisis—if you were attached to a ventilator, you would be asked if your advance directives were in order. This meant that you are choosing to die. And over a million Americans did die from a disease that was said to be nothing but a flu. And that was nonsense.
There is a lot written about the “recovered”, and the “discharged,” but the facts remain that no one knows anything regarding COVID as it works through your body. No one knows where the virus goes when the human immune system does gain an advantage. No one knows when a system will “dive,” which means present as “recovered” before dropping into the morbidity of finality. COVID attacks the entire body. If you have a secondary affliction such as asthma or heart issues, you become more vulnerable.
That is where I lived for nineteen days. My wife had a less severe case of COVID.
We do not know how we contracted COVID. We do not know where. We wore masks, gloves, practiced hygiene as prescribed, but both of us contracted the virus.
This is like no virus ever encountered. The virus continues to mutate. I was told early on that this will be with us for a long time. To suggest just how complex this virus is, we know now that the vaccines can produce allergic reactions in recipients. We know that once you are vaccinated twice and have had the booster shots, you can still come down with COVID. We also know that those who get the virus the second time will, in all probability, not die, but they will suffer Long-COVID, possibly for the rest of their lives, and that means enormous pressure on the medical community.
What does Long-COVID do to you? We who have “recovered” know that you lose your sense of taste and smell. You lose your ability to sleep. The virus attacks your brain. You might have fog brain for the rest of your life. You might have blood and coronary problems for the rest of your life. Yes. You have “recovered,” but that simply means you did not die from the virus. I did not die. But every day I live in a world of dizziness, shortness of breath, brain fog, and that big one—no sense of taste or smell. The doctors call it “anosmia,” and millions of the “recovered” have it. Just one small and very dangerous legacy COVID gives you.
Who knows what else waits for us? How do you go about delivering a vaccine to ten-billion people, most of whom do not live in areas with enough drinking water, let alone refrigeration processes required to preserve and administer vaccines? We are not close to a solution. The virus pandemic is not over.
We, in the US, have lost 1,048,232 to COVID. At its peak, COVID was killing over two-thousand Americans every day. Now, with the mutations, that number is lower, but people are still dying from the virus. Look at the cost to the medical system.
On the day I was admitted to Urgent Care/ Emergency services, the medical community in attendance was this: eight EMTs; four
ambulance attendants; one ER nurse; three doctors; two CT technicians, a neurologist who read the scans; a work up nurse who drew blood, two transfer nurses who moved me from ER to Swedish isolation room; nine medical staff in three shifts; a food technician who delivered my meals to my room. And, while these wonderful people were “taking care of me” –one COVID patient--they were wearing smocks, masks, double gloves, and operating in the most hideous restrictions—all to prevent further spread of the virus.
Yes, most Americans think that the pandemic is past. But it is not. What can you do after your vaccinations and boosters? The protocols still obtain: WEAR YOUR MASK. Wear gloves. Wash your hands. Observe social distancing.
Do all that and you might “recover” if you get COVID. And remember that “recover” doesn’t mean your life will go back to normal. There is no normal. Pay attention. Observe the protocols. At the moment, that’s the best we can do.
As you have just read, COVID has interrupted our lives and taken away the innocence of enjoying the daily activities that once were taken for granted. At this point, I know some of what you have just read is difficult, but it’s true.
I’m thankful for Carol, Jack, Eleanor, and Marta’s help in conveying how difficult COVID has been. I would like to mention I’m a resident of Illinois and to this day I’m so appreciative of how Illinois stepped to the plate and lowered our numbers.
My deepest condolences for those that have lost their loved ones. May they rest in peace.