May is here and so is Open Medicine Foundation (OMF)’s May Momentum campaign. This month, we’re dedicated
to raising awareness and funding for research to find effective treatments for ME/CFS, Long COVID, and other post-infectious illnesses.
Your support is vital to help us make progress in understanding and treating these
complex illnesses. Please join us in this important effort by donating today!
Today, we spotlight the story of Beth Pardo, a former ultramarathoner and senior director at a major financial institution. Beth’s life changed dramatically when she contracted COVID-19 in 2020, and she has been battling Long COVID ever since.
Fast forward to 2023: Beth now has over 62,000 TikTok followers. She utilizes the platform to candidly share her Long COVID journey, while steadfastly raising awareness about chronic, complex diseases and the essential work of OMF.
Can you tell us about your journey with Long COVID? When did you first fall ill, and when did you realize you may be suffering from Long COVID?
I caught COVID in March of 2020 at the local grocery store in rural Ontario, Canada. I had a confirmed contact
with a positive case and came down with COVID a week later. I was moderately sick with my initial infection. Unable to walk more than a few steps for three weeks, unable to go back to work for three months.
Once I got back, I realized how sick I still was. I discovered my fever had never gone away, I couldn’t speak without gasping for air and I couldn’t sit up on my own for long periods of time. As the weeks and months went on, I began to develop the telltale symptoms of ME/CFS and dysautonomia. It’s been 1,113 days of illness so far with no end in sight.
What was life like for you prior to 2020?
I was an ultramarathoner who had just run her 13th marathon in Chicago just a few months prior to catching COVID. I had just gotten married in February of 2020 to my best friend and we had just gotten back from our honeymoon when I got sick a month later.
I used to hike, cycle, run, paddle boat, basically anything outdoors. I would take a 5:15 am excercise class four times a week and still squeeze in time later that day for a run or hike. I was constantly on the go.
I also was a senior director at a major financial institution managing large projects and lots of people. I had a brain for metrics and often was very much in the weeds of our day to day operations. I frequently spoke in front of large groups and was very confident
What does a day in the life look like now with Long COVID?
Currently, I’m not able to work. I have to sleep for 12 hours a night. Every day I wake up, my legs are on fire with a burning in my quads. This pain has been there since the beginning of my COVID infection.
I try to get one thing done every day, whether that be folding a load of laundry or baking something for my family. Otherwise I’m on the couch or in a chair resting. I do a lot of crochet now to quiet my mind.
I still see friends every few weeks but that’s something that requires me to rest before and after. I don’t leave the house often, besides weekly grocery shopping which I’m still not strong enough to do on my own. My husband takes over pushing the cart and
loading the groceries. I’ve lost most of my independence and I need him with me most of the time.
As far as symptoms go, I still experience extreme pain (nerve and joint pain) and I get migraines about every 10 days. (I had zero prior history of migraines). I still have a fever most days with extreme fatigue and weakness that fluctuates.
I also experience post-exertional malaise which is the hallmark symptom of ME/CFS. This means that if I overexert myself mentally or physically that 12-48 hours later I experience flu-like symptoms including a higher fever, severe body aches, sore throat, swollen
You have done an amazing job of using social media to call attention to this global health crisis. How did you start getting into content creation, and what has the experience been like?
I started making videos because I knew my story needed to be heard. There was an assumption that if you’re fit and healthy you can’t end up with a negative outcome from COVID. As someone who was at her fittest when she got sick, I knew people needed to know disability was a possible outcome.
The overall experience has been incredible. I’ve met the most supportive group of people in the chronic illness community and I’ve learned so much from folks who have been sick with post viral illness long before COVID. These are lifelong friends that I am so grateful for.
Building this community and sharing my knowledge and experience makes me feel like some good is coming out of a very dark situation, and it gives me a purpose and motivation every day. Even if it’s just a day where I’m holding space for others and listening to them vent about their experiences, I’m here to help in whatever way I can.
What do you most hope the general public will learn or understand through watching your important videos and content?
I hope people will hear loud and clear that this could happen to anyone. COVID is still here and people should continue to take precautions. However, it’s important to note that COVID-19 isn’t the only virus that could lead to this type of disability. You can pick up another unnamed virus tomorrow that could disable you. You have no idea what the future holds and post viral illness can change everything in an instant.
Despite the challenges, I am so excited about the amazing work that’s coming out of Open Medicine Foundation (OMF). Their approach of building on years of post-viral illness research is exactly what I believe more organizations should adopt in their Long COVID studies.
I am so grateful for an organization who understands the scope and severity of the problem and is enlisting some of the best and brightest in the areas of post-infection illness research. OMF gives me hope that there is a cure on the horizon and I am excited to see what the future holds.
If you can, please join me in supporting May Momentum today.
Be sure to stay updated with Beth’s journey on Tiktok! https://www.tiktok.com/@longcovidlife
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