We know the coronavirus affects people differently and for different lengths of time. What we know about long-term impacts for the coronavirus is also evolving. We spoke to a long-hauler who continues to live life day by day nearly a year after she contracted COVID-19.
For Alexandra Hackett, running was a release. From trails to treadmills, the miles got her through the week.
In March 2020, running became her first warning something was wrong.
“I was out running on a Saturday, and I just felt really weird,” Hackett said. “I had to stop and keep trying to catch my breath, which isn’t like me.”
When her symptoms got worse, Hackett got tested for COVID-19.
Her test came back negative.
A few weeks later, the marathon runner tried to get back to exercising.
“My heart was beating so fast that I thought it was going to be out of my chest,” Hackett said. “Like, it felt like someone had their fist inside my chest, like, and the pain would last for hours.”
By September, it lasted for days, landing Hackett in the emergency room, but test after test showed nothing was wrong.
“I started bawling in the doctor’s office because I know something’s not right, and how can you tell me on paper everything’s right?” Hackett explained. “And fortunately, he said, ‘I believe you.’”
Hackett says her doctors believe her COVID-19 tests returned as false negatives, and her pain comes from nerve damage caused by the virus.
Her symptoms don’t end there.
“Every day still, it feels like there’s a pinball machine inside of my head full of thoughts,” Hackett said. “It’s just, you know, it takes an immense amount of mental gymnastics to get through my day … I don’t have the virus anymore, but this is all just the aftermath of that.”
Hackett says something else she learned throughout her experience was the importance of advocating for herself.
She says you know your body best, and if something feels wrong, keep talking about it until you find someone who will listen and help.
“There are many of us who will have significant long term physical and mental conditions as a result. And a lot of these conditions are not picked up on tests. There are a lot of people who go to the doctors and say something’s not right,” Hackett said. “If a doctor tells you your tests are normal, and you know that you’re not feeling right, please, please know that what you’re feeling is valid, what you’re experiencing is valid. And there are people who will believe you.”
Hackett continues to push forward in her daily life.
“I don’t know what the future is going to bring because that’s not going to help me worrying,” Hackett said. “I just have to take this week by week and acknowledge the small victories and just move on from there.”