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COVID-19 long-haulers face health and livelihood uncertainty

covid survivors for change
Posted at 11:16 AM, Oct 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 11:16:01-04

Step into Marjorie Roberts' home office and her pictures tell the story of the best moments of her life.

There is a picture of her receiving her doctorate degree in business. Then, there is a picture of her and her husband from their final trip to Las Vegas before the pandemic.

But the pictures also show a life Roberts says she will never live again because of what COVID-19 has done to her.

“You know, growing up your parents and the world tell you to go to the military, get a job, work, buy a house," Roberts said, as she looks at her accomplishments on her wall. "I did everything.”

Prior to the pandemic, Roberts managed a gift shop at a hospital in Atlanta.

“I was just happy. My life was good. It wasn’t perfect," she said.

Not long after she says the gift shop closed in March of 2020, she felt the symptoms of COVID-19.

“That morning I woke up, I was fine. I was fine, and by the time that the sun went down that night, my life had forever changed," Roberts recalled. “I just felt bad and the fatigue, and it just happened so quick.”

She is one of the country’s earliest COVID-19 survivors, but now about 20 months later, her battle continues.

Doctors found damage to her lungs, her liver, and she even lost teeth, since she had COVID.

“Seven teeth all at once, in the front my mouth," Roberts said.

A UC Davis study found as many as a third of COVID-19 survivors live with a symptom of the virus long-term.

Roberts says as a COVID-19 long-hauler, it’s hard to work. She is a certified life coach.

“I still have like no energy. I do walk. It took me months to be able to walk up this block," Roberts said.

Roberts says while COVID-19 has hurt her health, it’s also hurt how she and her husband get by.

“We went from a two-income house, savings, to him. It’s all on him," she said.

“We all know someone who has been directly impacted by this. Many of them are still suffering," says Chris Kocher, who leads COVID Survivors for Change.

The nonpartisan nationwide group is pushing for more government support for COVID-19 long-haulers, many of whom are now struggling to make a living.

In July, the Biden administration issued new guidance that said COVID long-haulers may qualify for government disability assistance, but Kocher said more needs to be done.

“This is a new condition. This is a new disease, so we need to make sure we are listening. The medical system is listening. To people who have COVID, first and for most, they’re the experts in what their bodies are going through, what their journey of healing has been," Kocher said.

These days, Roberts spends much of her time in a prayer room she's created in her home.

"This is where the magic happens," she said, as she looked at her Bible.

Roberts also leads a weekly support group for COVID-19 long haulers like herself.

“We stick together," she said. "Because we’re all we got.”

The truth about long-haul COVID is that at this point, there is much we don’t know.

“I’m going to be OK because have to. I have to, I have no choice," Roberts said.

While doctors work to find answers as to what causes long-haul COVID and how long the impact could last, those still suffering, like Roberts, say they can only try to move past its impact on their bodies, their lives, and their livelihoods.