Christina Stanton was previously healthy but now, after “recovering” from COVID-19, suffers debilitating fatigue, can’t taste food and struggles with many ongoing issues such as major hair loss and body aches and pains.
I am a licensed NYC tour guide who worked my way up that ladder to become employed by several private companies, as well as establishing my own.
In March 2020 my husband Brian and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary by visiting family in Florida.
While enjoying the vacation, I settled into a comfy couch at my brother-in-law’s home and began sipping my favorite drink, Kombucha.
It was then I became aware of a tightness in my throat.
Dinner tasted bland, and later that evening I developed fatigue, body aches and a very sore throat.
As the night wore on and into the next morning, my body increasingly felt run over by a truck.
When I couldn’t stand up without feeling faint a few days later, Brian took me to the hospital, where I tested positive for COVID-19.
I was discharged, but the symptoms sent me back again, and during this second visit, a doctor told me I had a “50/50 chance of surviving.”
COVID-19’s Long-Hauler Effects
I survived but suffered several health issues which led me back to my hometown.
The biggest challenge: My energy level and lung capacity are (as of October 2020 – seven months later) less than half of what they used to be.
I’ve never been a gym rat but always had tons of energy. Previously I had averaged walking eight miles per day in Manhattan mainly for tour guiding.
Post-COVID-19 “recovery,” I’m very stationary and strategize about things I need to do with as little energy as possible when I get up.
That is a whole new mindset for me. I’m getting out and walking more, but the diminished capacity is still shocking to me.
Instead of dashing here and there doing errands and household chores, I pick and choose what needs to get done right away, and the rest has to wait until I build my energy back up.
I’ve gained 30 pounds as a result of inactivity, which is probably making it harder to walk.
I still have no sense of taste or smell. The loss affects me in small and big ways. In small ways, I miss the taste of my favorite foods such as steak and sweets.
Larger issues include worrying that I wouldn’t be able to smell smoke if something was burning or the ability to tell if something has gone bad, like milk.
In general, eating has become a mundane experience rather than the pleasurable one I’m used to.
About three-fourths of my hair has fallen out, necessitating a wig.
I’ve always had a fraught relationship with my hair, as I considered it too flat and limp for my taste.
Every trip to the hairdresser held the hope that I finally could get it to do what I wanted! But now, I just wish I had some to work with.
Hair loss can cause a lot of anguish. Although other aspects of the virus’s aftermath have been more upsetting to me personally, a huge number of women in the various COVID survivor groups I’m a member of often bring up their hair loss as a truly devastating viral after-effect.
In addition, I have aches and pains in my body.
I wake up several times per night and sleep restlessly, whereas my entire life I’ve slept as solid as a rock.
My face is showing the lack of sleep. Wearing a wig that frames my puffy face and baggy eyes while I shop for cheap clothes (cheap, because I’m out of work) for my much larger frame, I despair I’ll run into someone I know at the stores.
I feel and look like I’ve aged 20 years and am ashamed of my appearance.
My lymph nodes are bulging at the base of my neck, and I’m still seeing doctors to sort through the implication of these issues.
I have tingling and twitching constantly in strange places all over my body, such as a finger or my calf and right thigh.
I’ve been told all of this is most likely COVID-related. I’m someone who almost never got sick previously — even with something as simple as a cold.
At 51, shifting from rarely getting sick to a revolving door of healthcare office visits is an unwelcome and anxiety-ridden addition to my life.
I have worked since 1995 as a licensed NYC tour guide: conducting walking tours, bus tours, boat tours and everything in between for groups as large as 50.
My tours have been written up in various publications and I’ve been featured on travel channels for years.
Even if tourism was returned to pre-lockdown levels, I’d have to take a breather from my profession. I’m in no shape to walk miles per day and entertain/educate tourists.
Nevertheless, I feel blessed to be alive and blessed to be able to move at all.
And because of my experience, I felt compelled to write about my journey.
“Faith in the Face of COVID-19: A Survivor’s Tale” came out October 3, 2020 (available on Amazon), and is one of the first firsthand accounts of a viral battle in a book form.
My goals in writing the book are to give a detailed running commentary of the battle, offer ideas on mental self-care if one catches it, help you mount a solid support system within your family and friends, discuss life-lessons I learned as a result, and give an insider view and timeline of events of New York City as it shut down and then succumbed to the virus, tragically becoming a deadly global epicenter.
Any and all proceeds of this book will go to nonprofit organizations helping hard-hit international areas.
Long-Hauler Symptoms Are Many and Varied
Left: Christina Stanton as she appeared before contracting COVID-19. In 2017 Stanton founded a nonprofit called Loving All Nations.