MISSOULA — Of the more than 400 million people across the globe to have tested positive for COVID-19, more than half will experience post-COVID symptoms, or what many are calling “long-COVID.”
As if testing positive for COVID isn’t bleak enough, life after COVID can be just as trying, and it's a harsh reality one Missoula woman experienced up close.
Life has always been colorful for stained glass artist Amy Engkjer, but after testing positive for COVID in November of 2020, vibrancy of the life she knew faded.
“It hit me pretty hard, not so hard that I had to go to the hospital, but I felt pretty miserable, and then it didn't go away,” recalled Engkjer. “I started to realize that it was the long-COVID we had been hearing about.”
The reality of a novel virus is a lack of information and guidance.
Scouring the internet for answers, Engkjer came up short.
“Everything was so miserable and we couldn't find anything optimistic or hopeful or positive, or anybody else that had been through it that had come out the other end,” said Engkjer.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months.
“Not that I thought that I was gonna die each day, but the life that I knew was gone and I didn't know if I was ever going to get it back,” explained Engkjer.
Long-COVID is a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus.
Symptoms can be as minor as tiredness or as severe and long-lasting as what Engkjer endured.
“They were neurological, debilitating fatigue…I even had bouts of psychosis.”
Throughout the journey, Engkjer recited a simple phrase, “I will recover,” and after a year and two weeks, that phrase became reality, “I did recover,” she told MTN News.
Mantras and meditation carried her through long-COVID. Now, she’s using her story to pay it forward.
“I would do whatever I could to help other people get through this, and that's how I started Positively COVID.
You can find Positively COVID online. It’s a resource for long-COVID recovery. It also offers a positive outlet to escape the negativity of the pandemic.
Meditations, encouragement, interviews with experts, humor, and recovery stories from others in the same boat, offered tab by tab.
Engkjer plans to keep the website up and running as long as it's needed. In order to offer the expert advice and meditative guides for free, she’s also operating Positively COVID as a non-profit. Donations can be made on the site.
“I don't want to leave anyone behind that’s suffering with long-COVID,” Engkjer concluded.
From her own experience with long-COVID, Engkjer hopes to make lemonade with lemons and turn long-haulers into strong-haulers.