Dwayne Pereira, 34
Dwayne Pereira, a change-and-training manager at Plan International Canada, used to work out two or three times a week before he fell ill with symptoms of COVID-19 in the third week of March. His illness started with a dry cough, fatigue and a burning in his chest. In the early days, alone in his Toronto apartment and struggling with shortness of breath, he slept next to his phone in case he needed to call an ambulance. He was never able to get tested because he did not meet Ontario’s criteria at the time. He hadn’t travelled and he wasn’t sick enough to be admitted to hospital.
For weeks, Mr. Pereira worked from home through debilitating fatigue and a relentless cough. At the six-week mark, his symptoms morphed into a deep ache in his chest and back. “It’s lonely because people don’t understand,” said Mr. Pereira, who has finally begun to feel better. “Unless people catch this – and I hope they don’t – they’re not going to understand that there’s no comparison to any other disease.”
Heather Colton, 25
Heather Colton, a supervisor at a fast-food restaurant, was hit hard in March, with full body aches, fever, shortness of breath, sweats and chills that made her teeth chatter. Her son, now almost 3, and her fiancé got sick, too.
At one point, thinking she felt better, Ms. Colton tried to pick up some of her son’s toys and couldn’t catch her breath. The disease came and went that way for weeks, surprising her with horrible chest pains, swollen lymph nodes or muscle aches that sent her back to bed.
During a visit to the emergency department on March 29, Ms. Colton had a lung scan that showed the beginnings of bilateral pneumonia, along with areas of ground-glass opacity that are telltale signs of COVID-19. Still, she didn’t qualify for a test at the time. “I called the health unit six different times,” Ms. Colton said. “I was assessed each time and I met every single criteria, except for the travelling, not being a health care worker and I hadn’t been hospitalized.”
Kevin Mundy, 42
Kevin Mundy, an actor, said he was in the best shape of his life when he caught the coronavirus at a mid-March funeral attended by two guests from Washington state who later tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Mr. Mundy tested positive himself in the third week of May, after having received a negative result in April. “So nine weeks after my first symptom, I still had so many virus particles in my body that I tested positive,” he said.
Mr. Mundy’s symptoms came in waves, first affecting his lungs, then his heart, then his brain and nervous system. His fatigue was bone-deep; at times he couldn’t rise from his bed or summon the energy to focus on anything. It wasn’t until day 95 of his illness that he was well enough to start taking 45-minute walks.
“I was super healthy, no comorbidities,” Mr. Mundy said of his life before COVID-19, “and this thing kicked me in my teeth for months.”
Carrie Gambill, 49
Carrie Gambill has been keeping an online diary of her COVID-19 symptoms and posting them to her Facebook page. “Ribs are sore all the way around, probably from coughing. Coughing so much. All the time,” she wrote on July 7, her 73rd day of feeling sick. “On the upside I’m hungry today. I actually feel hunger. It’s been months since I felt that. Today I feel like a Smart car hit me instead of my Yukon so that’s better too.”
Ms. Gambill, a mother of three and a sales representative and delivery driver for an auto-parts company, started experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms around April 26, which she didn’t immediately associate with COVID-19. As the weeks went on, her symptoms multiplied: She experienced neck and back pain, a cough, fever and a tightness in her chest that made her feel as though she couldn’t draw breath. Although Ms. Gambill tested negative twice – she didn’t get her first swab until nearly a month after she first felt sick – she said two doctors told her she was likely infected, based on her constellation of symptoms.
“I expected I’d be better in a couple weeks,” Ms. Gambill said in an interview. “I really did not have a clue that it could last longer than that.”
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