A woman who contracted COVID-19 at a Black Lives Matter protest has revealed that she has been in a wheelchair for the past five months and relies on her parents to take care of her as she struggles with ongoing symptoms from the virus.
Nataly Najarro, a registered behavior technician, from Sun Valley, California, took the pandemic seriously, making sure wore a mask everywhere she went and avoided busy places where possible.
However, following the widely publicized death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed at the hands of a white police officer on May 25, the 24-year-old felt that she needed to take to the streets and join the Black Lives Matter movement in protest.
Struggling: Nataly Najarro, a registered behavior technician, from Sun Valley, California, has been largely confined to wheelchair for five months after contracting COVID-19
Start of it all: The 24-year-old caught the virus at a Black Lives Matters protest in Hollywood on June 7 and was diagnosed two weeks later
Despite her concerns about the ongoing medical crisis, she joined thousands of protesters in Hollywood on June 7 to make her voice heard.
‘I was very torn about keeping safe, but also needing to do something about the injustice that has gone on for so long,’ she explained. ‘I ended up going to the protest and while I tried my hardest to take precautions, masks and sanitizing can only do so much with an airborne virus.’
Nataly thought that she had taken all reasonable precautions, on June 13, just under a week later, she began to suffer from panic attacks, something that she had never experienced previously.
It was a shock for Nataly, who up until this point in her life had largely avoided feelings of anxiety. Two weeks later, on June 27, she woke up with a fever, a cough, and terrible fatigue.
Precautions: Nataly said she wore a face mask and used sanitizer throughout the day, but she still ended up catching the virus
Scary: Nataly started to suffer from uncontrollable shaking and sudden increases in her heart rate. She was admitted to the hospital for three days after collapsing
With her boyfriend John, 21, fearing that it could be early signs of coronavirus, he rushed her to urgent care where a rapid test confirmed that she had indeed caught the virus.
‘That’s when I found out I was positive for COVID-19,’ she said. ‘My family and friends also were tested, but only my dad came out positive, but with no symptoms.’
Nataly returned home where she isolated with her roommate, but she soon started to suffer from uncontrollable shaking and sudden increases in her heart rate.
‘My whole body was shaking for at least an hour, multiple times per day,’ she said.
Struggle: Nataly can now only walk a few steps before having to sit down from exhaustion
Support system: Nataly is pictured with her boyfriend John, 21, before her diagnosis (left) and after (right_. He was the one who took her to urgent care to get tested for COVID-19
Back home: Nataly’s parents made the decision to move her back into the family home, setting up a makeshift bedroom in the living room to care for her
At the beginning of August, Nataly had to spend three days in the hospital while the doctors monitored her dangerously high pulse.
My heart rate raced up to 180 beats per minute and they had to monitor me,’ she said. ‘They did a lot of tests and multiple doctors looked at me and they found nothing medical that they could say was wrong with me.’
Constant battle: Nataly now uses vaporizers and an inhaler to help her breath
In the three weeks following her diagnosis, Nataly was admitted to the emergency room three more times after collapsing and being too weak to get up.
Subsequent COVID-19 tests have come back negative and a series of CT scans, chest X-rays, brain MRI scans, and blood work have come back as normal. However, Nataly is still suffering from terrible fatigue and memory loss over five months later and now must use an inhaler as she often finds herself short of breath.
‘My neurological assessment came out that I have mild cognitive deficiencies due to my foggy brain and fatigue,’ she said.
‘I’m not able to do math easily, and it takes me a lot longer to problem solve compared to before.
Unable to cope, Nataly’s parents made the decision to move her back into the family home, setting up a makeshift bedroom in the living room to care for her in her weakened state.
Nataly is suffering from ‘long COVID,’ a condition in which symptoms including breathlessness, fatigue, anxiety, joint pain, and loss of taste persist weeks and sometimes even months after an initial diagnosis.
She is now largely confined to a wheelchair as walking for more than a few seconds is impossible, and she requires assistance from her parents to do everyday tasks.
Help: Nataly, pictured with her mom, has to rely on her parents to take care of her and help her do everyday tasks such as showering
Difficult: ‘My family has to fix their schedule around me and it really sucks,’ she said. ‘I have become a financial and caregiving burden’
‘I can’t drive for myself and I can’t be alone at home because if I fall and no one is there to help me,’ she said. ‘Going out in public is difficult because it can be embarrassing if I fall and start shaking in front of people.
‘I need help going to the bathroom, to the shower, and even walking from room to room. I also need help with daily tasks like cooking and cleaning.
‘My family has to fix their schedule around me and it really sucks,’ she added. ‘I have become a financial and caregiving burden.’
Nataly was planning on going to grad school in 2021 to study for a PhD in clinical neuroscience but has had to put this on hold due to her debilitating condition.
Scary: Nataly, pictured kayaking before she got sick, is suffering from ‘long COVID,’ a condition in which symptoms persist weeks and sometimes even months after a diagnosis
Uncertain times: ‘The future looks really scary right now, not just for me, but for the world,’ she said
Life on hold: Nataly was planning on going to grad school in 2021 to study for a PhD in clinical neuroscience but has had to put this on hold due to her debilitating condition
She wants to make sure that young and healthy people understand that even if you are at a low risk of dying from the disease, it does not mean that you are exempt from the life-changing consequences that can come with it.
‘To young people, I want to tell them that Covid is a huge issue even if you aren’t old,’ Nataly said. It is a terrible illness and it sucks the life away from people.
‘I was planning on going to grad school, but my future plans have changed due to my situation. I think what the future holds are huge public health and economic problems.
‘We have young healthy people not able to work and provide an income. The future looks really scary right now, not just for me, but for the world,’ she added.
‘It’s not worth risking your life, youth, and freedom, having to be bound to a wheelchair like I am.’