Maureen would have been in her last year at the Georgetown University Law Center this fall, living in an apartment on H Street and preparing to graduate — in person or virtually — this spring. Instead, she deferred this past semester and has been at home in Upstate New York for months, passing time while she waits to start classes again in January.
It’s one of the ways her life has been sidetracked for the better part of a year. Maureen counts herself among the long-haulers, people who suffer from “Long COVID,” a lingering, rotating onslaught of symptoms that has affected patients of all ages and stumped doctors worldwide.
“I’ve been really healthy up until this point,” says Maureen, who preferred not to use her last name for privacy reasons. “I ran cross country in college. I was still trying to do five to seven miles of running a day. And this has just been absolutely debilitating.”
After experiencing all the symptoms associated with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — headaches, fatigue, a sore throat, shortness of breath, body aches — Maureen still thought it couldn’t be COVID-19. She’d been social distancing, washing her hands, and wearing a mask. And besides, she was only 24 years old. “But I had the purple fingers and toes,” she says. “Once the COVID toes presented themselves, I did end up getting myself tested.”
But the test came back negative.
She and other long-haulers who spoke to DCist say one of the biggest challenges they’ve faced has been testing. They got sick in March or April, back when the District had testing shortages and there was widespread confusion about who had access to them. When these long-haulers were finally tested, they received false negative results — or, at least, it would appear that way since they still had symptoms.
Despite her negative results, doctors told Maureen: “You definitely have COVID — just ride it out for 30 days,” she says. “But I’m still riding it out.”
The specialists she saw, including a pulmonologist, cardiologist, rheumatologist, and hematologist, weren’t able to provide many answers about what her specific condition was and how to treat it. Maureen says one told her, somewhat dismissively, “You know, anxiety manifests itself in the body.”
Her condition has become the subject of peer-reviewed studies and massive online support groups — some have even begun lobbying Congress about Long COVID.
Maureen turned her attention to friends in New York and found informative articles online, including a June feature published in The Atlantic, which made the