This article is part of a series called “COVID Survivor Stories,” where we profile the struggles of those who survived a diagnosis of COVID-19, as they deal with the repercussions of recovery.
Catie Barber was a newlywed, marathon runner and proud dietician at a nursing home who never thought her life would be rocked by a severe illness.
The 28-year-old and Saugerties native has joined an exclusive and growing club of what have become known as COVID long haulers, people who have experienced symptoms long after recovering from the virus.
“COVID really did a number on my body,” she said. “But with the proper medical treatment, I was able to get better and hopefully anticipate a full recovery this year.”
For the past year since she contracted the virus on the job, Barber has dealt simultaneously with both physical and mental health issues.
“I was previously healthy and to go from being so healthy to being bed-bound, was really hard on my mental health,” she said.
She first received a mild diagnosis with a runny nose, body aches and loss of taste and smell. After her initial COVID diagnosis, Barber started developing symptoms and visited the emergency room multiple times before being diagnosed with POTS (or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), which affects her autonomic nervous system.
As part of this condition, she suffers from chronic fatigue, which is a constant struggle.
“That is been a constant since I got sick and I’m still working through that one,” she said.
She also started seeking mental health treatment for depression and PTSD after contracting COVID, and has connected with a community of fellow long haulers online.
“I’ve met some really, really amazing people that I’ve shared experiences with and that I just have a lot in common with,” she said.
Connecting with young people with similar conditions has illuminated her understanding that COVID affects all age groups, including her own.
“I am living proof that COVID can do whatever it wants to your body,” she said. “But in all seriousness, I was completely healthy before this, and there’s no reason why I should have gotten as sick as I did.”
She also collaborated with her junior high friend, Kate Thompson, on a sweatshirt designed and named after her.
Thompson’s North Carolina-based clothing line Waves of Wellness sells apparel with inspiring mental health-related messages. “The Catie” sweatshirt features the slogan “mental health is just as important as physical health,” which surrounds a photo of a brain.
“When she had found out that I was going through this, I guess, tragedy in my life, and I was suffering mentally with depression, anxiety and PTSD, she had reached out, and we kind of collaborated,” she said. “We both know each other from way back when so it was just nice to work with an old friend.”
Barber was featured in The Atlantic magazine and “Good Morning America” last year to discuss her experience as a COVID long hauler.
Throughout this journey, Barber has remained grateful for her network of support, which includes her husband, friends and co-workers.
“My friends and my [husband] and my entire community have been so so generous and kind and supportive towards me through this whole thing,” she said.