A Year (or two) of Healing
Sarah has spent two years dealing with long Covid. Two years with an avalanche of symptoms and feelings.
United States, Northern America
Story by Sarah Kraus. Edited by Rick Scherpenhuizen and Veronica Burgstaller
Published on February 18, 2022. Reading time: 10 minutes
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February 11, 2020: the last day I remember feeling like myself.
February 12, I woke up with a slight sore throat, nothing unusual for me, so I went to work as normal. I got to school, taught my classes, and shot down a packet of vitamin C at lunchtime to ward off the cold I thought I was catching. I remember the exact date, immortalized on Instagram with a picture of vitamin C and a caption that read, "Just today I felt like I might be coming down with something ... need all the vitamins!" After all, I was planning on a spring break trip to Australia and New Zealand. I couldn't be sick for that!
Of course, Covid-19 was in the news, but at that point, it was just a disease in another country. It wasn't real for me yet.
Taking the vitamin C seemed to help. The sore throat went away, and while I was a bit more tired than usual, that was it. Three days later, I was on the plane. I was welcomed into Australia by a friend and enjoyed the stay.
Fast forward about two months: I was back teaching at my school in South Korea, where I was living at the time. Things were strange, with the Covid-19 situation, but we were okay. Students were coming in person to school once per week, and the rest of the lessons were online. We, as teachers, spent a lot of time figuring out the logistics of online school, but we eventually fell into a routine.
One day, I was sitting at my desk, and I realized that my back was hurting – right between the shoulder blades. I thought I needed to stretch, or get up and move a bit. It didn't help, and I couldn't seem to shake the pain.
Then, I started having heartburn almost daily, which was unusual for me. Later that week, I began to develop chest pain. At first, it felt like anxiety, right in the middle of my chest. I thought to myself, it's normal to be anxious in a world that has seemingly gone crazy. The chest pain soon felt like inflammation. It almost felt as if someone had kicked me in the chest, or had stuck their hand inside and rattled my organs around. It was very disturbing. I thought maybe at my taekwondo class I'd been kicked during a sparring match without realizing it.
Covid-19 wasn't really something I thought of, since at that point we knew it as a respiratory illness. The symptoms were a dry cough and a fever. Not having had either of those at any point in the past year, I thought that was not my case.
The chest pain was annoying, though. Then, it became more than just annoying. I went on a hike with my friend at one point, and it wiped me out. It took me over the weekend and an extra day or two to recover. After that, the chest pain began to keep me up at night. I couldn't get comfortable, no matter which way I slept. Some nights, my heart would suddenly begin pounding out of nowhere and I felt like I was getting panic attacks. I finally went to the doctor, and before entering the hospital, I was required to take a covid test. It came back negative. I talked to the doctor, and she ordered a chest X-ray and an EKG. Both came back completely normal. She seemed to think anxiety was a reasonable cause, as the other two tests were normal. I just went with it, but all the while I suspected something else was wrong.
Upon returning home to the US, I took another Covid-19 test, just in case I had contracted anything on the flight. My test was once again negative. I spent the first month at home resting up, determined to shake the awful chest pain and anxiety. I eventually got tested for Covid-19 again, but this time they also tested me for antibodies. Interestingly, I had them! Then, it all began to make sense. I was not feeling bad due to anxiety, but because I was sick and had been sick since 7 months prior.
Since then, I've had an avalanche of both feelings and symptoms. Between December 2020 and March 2021, I was at my lowest. I find it hard to explain why. It was like a cycle that never ended. Besides the chest pain and heartburn, I began to have back pain again. I was always exhausted and couldn't survive the day without a nap.
Then, my left arm started hurting. Right below the elbow, it ached. I couldn't shake the pain. After that, my legs began to throb. I was always in pain and felt lost. I didn't know what to do or why this was happening to me. It had been months - I didn't know how long this would last, or what other symptoms my body would throw at me.
I first heard of the condition now called “long covid” when I joined a Facebook group called "COVID long haulers.". It was incredible to see that many others were experiencing the same problems as me.
Since then, I've had more symptoms. I was incredibly intolerant to exercise and had a rapid resting heartbeat. I’ve had random neurological issues, such as brain fog, tinnitus, a pin pricking feeling in my legs, and sudden shocks in my heart –which would happen as I’d be drifting off to sleep, so I’d be afraid to sleep.This caused me to be very careful with myself, making sure to eat well, get enough sleep, and not overdo anything.
In April 2021, I started seeing a functional medicine doctor, and we did a ton of blood work. She found that when I got Covid-19 initially, it had caused reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus,the virus that causes mononucleosis. I didn't even know I had that virus in the first place, but she said she had found the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus was common in people with health problems from having had Covid-19. She put me on a supplement protocol targeting the Epstein-Barr virus, (an antiviral regime). At one point, I was taking 33 pills a day! I was so ready to heal, and ready to do anything I could do to get healthy again. If I had learned one thing living in South Korea, it’s to chase after your goals relentlessly – work hard, no matter what.
After going through the vitamin protocol, I began to feel better. I no longer had constant chest pain and my arm and leg pain only made an appearance once in a while, when I stressed myself, ate too much sugar, or tried to do too much. The rest of my symptoms still came and went, but I was in a much better place than I was before.
I began to see posts on the Facebook group about treatment in Mexico, using mesenchymal stem cells derived from the placenta. It seemed non-invasive and simply involved using an intravenous (IV) drip. I researched a lot and read testimonials. Many people who were sick with the same types of symptoms I saw great improvement after the treatment. I saved up for a few months and made my decision.
In November 2021, I bought my plane ticket and booked an Airbnb. I spent Christmas break 2021 in a little town in Mexico, surrounded by people who cared about me. I had two doctors who spent almost an hour with me, hearing my story and explaining the treatment. Afterwards, I got my first treatment of 28 million stem cells. I sat in a recliner in the back room of their clinic, staring out the sliding glass door to a small pool and a tropical paradise. A few days later, I got another treatment of 75 million stem cells. Once I got back home, I could feel I had a lot more energy, although the doctor said it could take a few weeks or months to really feel a difference. Those new cells had to have time to divide inside of me and find and replace all my old, dead cells.
Amazingly, a few weeks post-treatment, I can now say I’m feeling so much better: Almost like my pre-Covid19 self! My symptoms still come randomly, but when they come they are much milder than before. I’ve begun to slowly exercise again (mostly taking walks and stretching) and my immune system finally feels like it is in a much more stable place.
Reflecting on last year, I am in a much better place, both emotionally and physically. I've learned a lot through my experience with long Covid-19. I've learned that the people you meet every day might be going through things you'd have no idea about. I've learned that people with chronic diseases or health issues are some of the strongest people in the world. Health is a gift to be cherished. Ultimately, God is in control and I can trust him because he loves me, and he is faithful. I dedicated last year to healing and am feeling better every day. It’s still a process, but I am so incredibly grateful.
January 13, 2022, almost 2 years later: The first day I remember feeling like myself again.
 Intravenous drip (IV drip) is the continuous, slow introduction of fluid into the vein
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