Maryland Department of Health
“I have been sick for 170 days. I am so tired of being sick and tired. I used to bike around my community, and now just taking out the trash is a struggle.” ~ Christina Cortez
Christina Cortez, 26, coughs throughout the phone interview. Her voice is hoarse and sometimes breaks from the strain of speaking and emotion. She has not had one full day without COVID symptoms since her first positive test on July 3.
“I have not been able to work since July,” said Christina, who worked as a physical therapist and provided in-home care for special needs children, including her brother, before the pandemic.
“Every 3-4 days I get a fever, and I basically have a headache every day,” she continued. “I was planning to go back to work, but then my fever spiked for several days in a row. The headaches got worse, and the coughing got worse.”
Christina is one of thousands of Covid “long haulers” whose symptoms persist long after they test negative for the virus. After testing positive several times this summer, Christina has had two negative tests since September. Yet, she still feels sick.
“I have been a little shocked, to be honest,” Christina said of her encounters with people who don’t believe that COVID-19 exists. “I have been told that I am faking it because I don’t want to work. People said my tests were false positives. How could I fake this? I take oxygen with me when I leave the house because my levels are so low. I would not wish this virus on anyone.”
Through it all, Christina has remained thankful for the support that she has received from her family and her Amish church. “Without my faith and my community, I don’t know how I would have gotten through,” she explained, smiling. “There is always hope – I would rather trust in that than not.”