For COVID-19 long-haulers, returning to normal comes with mixed emotions

Lori Bebko
Posted at 12:04 PM, Jun 14, 2021

On street corners and in cities across the country, life has come roaring back as a nation stricken with cabin fever emerges from 15 months of COVID-19.

But for people like 54-year-old Lori Bebko, there is no going back to the way things were.

"I understand we need to go back to normal but we need to redefine normal," Bebko said. "I don't see how can return to the way we were before."

Bebko's brother, Charlie, caught COVID-19 the day before Christmas and died three days later. The 44-year-old was one of the nearly 600,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19.

All Bebko has left of her little brother is a small urn filled with his ashes.

"This is what I have left. I talk to him every day," she said.

It's not just the loss of her brother which makes a return to normalcy hard for Bebko. She also caught the virus last year and is still suffering from symptoms.

"You feel like you have dementia; you really do," she said.

A return to pre-pandemic life has also been hard for Sean Cloonan.

The 20-year-old college student is considered a long-hauler. Months after getting the virus, he still is dealing with symptoms.

"I haven't exercised in six months, Every time I do, I'll be breathless for an hour and a half," he said.

For Americans like Cloonan and Bebko, seeing the country open right back up comes with mixed emotions — especially after dealing with the trauma they carry from the pandemic.

"You feel left behind in a way, but at the same time, you feel betrayed," Bebko said.

As the country roars back to life, it's a reminder that life has changed for so many Americans.