They Bear Witness to Panic and Neglect

Given recently slashed public health funding, Katelyn Jetelina, Ph.D., remarked that “public health is a cycle of panic and neglect.”

It doesn’t take someone from out of town to tell us that. Indeed, several people who have shared their stories in this space since 2021 want others to know how they have been managing the aftermath of COVID-19 disease in their lives. We should heed their concerns about how to protect all our communities and follow soon-to-be-announced recommendations for fall immunizations.

“It has been just over two years since I contracted the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant. It brutally attacked my body and mind; my entire being. It led to multiple diagnoses including double lung COVID pneumonia, COVID-induced ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome), followed by my lungs being damaged to the point of no return, necessitating my getting a double lung transplant to save my life.

In just over a three-year period, the United States government has declared an end to the COVID pandemic and has already redistributed funds originally meant for COVID relief, research, and treatment development. I feel overlooked and forgotten. Millions of families in the United States alone have been affected by COVID, yet everybody wants to forget. Millions of us can’t. I’m truly concerned. Our government hasn’t learned from past mistakes. First, the mishandling of the Spanish Flu in 1918, and now the mishandling and politicizing of COVID, and most likely whatever disaster occurs next.

The thought is always wait until something terrible happens then mount a response with little to no preparation. I wonder how things would have turned out had there been more focus on preventive measures and increased funding for healthcare instead our elected officials’ childish temperaments and egos getting in the way of medical facts and evidence-based practices.”
~Rick Bressler, Lock Haven

“I had COVID originally in October 2020, which created heart issues and long-term exhaustion. I was a very healthy person who exercised and ate well. My exhaustion lasted for about 18 months post-Covid and was the most frustrating symptom for me. The more I tried to exercise, the worse it became; my body was just not able to recover from a normal workout routine. So, I decided to reduce my workouts by half. Finally, after 18 months I started feeling more normal, and once my energy returned at about month 20, I resumed usual workouts of 5-6x/week.

My heart issue persisted, and after consulting a nutritionist in July 2022, I cut out all caffeine, which helped that problem subside. I am also happy to have gotten four COVID vaccines, because in September 2022, I caught COVID again. That time, one day’s nasal congestion was my only symptom. With what felt like a mild cold, I didn’t lose my energy nor my appetite, which I credit to having been vaccinated.”  
~Carmen Terry, Lewisburg

“It’s been more than two years since our family lost our beloved husband, father, and grandfather to COVID. During our 45 years together, my husband and I made countless memories that I revisit daily, sometimes hourly. Comforted by them, I’ve learned to live as a single mom, a single woman, and a “party of one.” I’ve had plenty of time to process Bud’s death as well as his cause of death: COVID-19. While I’ve made progress with grief, I’m still tormented by why, as human beings, we didn’t do more to protect the lives of millions. Sadly, all the good memories I’m reminded of don’t help with that.

“I’m a solution-seeker by nature. When there’s a problem, I try to identify the cause and consider possible solutions. I read and I listen. I watch closely while the handyman makes repairs, and I make mental notes to prevent the problem from happening again. The solution for protecting people from COVID wasn’t, and isn’t, difficult. I struggle daily to come to terms with why, as citizens, who have the ‘right’ to choose whether or not to wear a mask, we didn’t weigh the options and feel an inherent need to protect one another and ‘do’ the right thing.

As citizens we have the ‘right’ to drive through an intersection when the traffic light is green, yet as caring and compassionate humans, we inherently know we wouldn’t be ‘doing’ the right thing if we drove through the intersection when a fellow human being is standing in the crosswalk. I hold out hope that over the last two years people have grown in compassion and have resolved to care about others and ‘do’ the right thing.”
~Jackie Perchinski, Williamsport

These reflections on the pandemic experience were curated by Barbara Hemmendinger, Chris Smith, and Mike Heyd of the Let’s end COVID! Public Education Committee. We thank Rick, Carmen, and Jackie, and all our contributors for sharing their stories.
Published: 7/22/23

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