In It For The Long Haul
by Lauren LaRocca
Published October 26 in Baltimore Magazine
Excerpt: It started with shortness of breath. While taking a basket of laundry downstairs to the basement, Mallory Stanislawczyk got winded, which had never happened before. Hours later came the low-grade fever, nausea, and the worst body aches she’d ever had. She took five hot showers that first day of COVID-19 in December 2020 and started taking Tylenol and Advil around the clock.
Seventeen days into COVID, Stanislawczyk went to the emergency room because she was worried about her breathing difficulties. They ordered bloodwork and gave her a chest X-ray. Everything came back normal, no signs of pneumonia or clots.
“They gave me an inhaler, started me on oral steroids, and sent me home. And slowly the weeks went by, and I just wasn’t improving.”
By then, Stanislawczyk had lost her sense of smell and began experiencing brain fog and worsening fatigue. Doctors were advising she’d feel better before too long. But a week later, her heart was racing after shoveling snow in the driveway—also unusual. Thinking it would pass, she tried returning to her job as a pediatric nurse practitioner in Frederick, but she couldn’t manage it. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t get through a sentence without having to take multiple breaths.
January 7, 2021 was her last day of work. Ten months later, Stanislawczyk is still unable to return to her job and struggles, at times, to care for herself—let alone her 2-year-old daughter, who has also tested positive and exhibited symptoms of long COVID.