CHANDLER, AZ — "I cry about it a lot. I feel so hopeless and depressed. I can't do anything about it. Doctors can't do anything about it. I'm stuck in this weird place."
Celeste Plitz laments from her couch where she spends her days if she's strong enough to get out of bed.
Plitz, a Chandler wife and mother in her 40s, is part of a growing number of patients known as long-haulers -- patients battling COVID-19 symptoms for weeks, and even months, on end.
Plitz says she went on a trip to the East Coast in March and weeks later, had several coronavirus symptoms, except a high fever, which at the time was a requirement to getting tested for the virus. It took about four weeks to finally get tested, by which time she says body aches, exhaustion, severe headaches, swollen glands, persistent cough and occasional fever spikes were part of her daily reality. Waiting longer than a week after symptoms results in a negative test in 15% to 30% of patients. That was the case with Plitz, but her doctor insisted she had coronavirus and two months later, the pain hasn't let up.
Plitz, a typically avid hiker, gardener and foundry worker, is too sick to work but not sick enough to be in the hospital. She does have Fibromyalgia but says medication has kept it under control for years.
Thousands of other long-haulers have joined online support groups as they start to see the long-term effects of being sick for so long, including kidney, liver and brain damage.
"Not only am I stuck at home being sick. Now I have to worry, am I going to get any of the rest of this stuff? I don't know, no one knows," she said.
Plitz is hopeful by sharing her story it will resonate with even one person to take the potential consequences more seriously and encourage them to wear a mask rather than gamble with their own health.
"I wouldn't wish this on anybody, it's awful."