Ryan Prior on the Covid-19 ‘Long Haul’

As the death toll from Covid-19 quickly rose throughout the United States and around the world in early 2020, many health officials, politicians, and media personalities had one clear message about those who contracted Covid-19: For those who didn’t die from the infection, it would be a simple respiratory illness and patients would fully recover in a matter of weeks. But for millions of people around the world, they didn’t fully recover after contracting SARS-Co-V-2; their symptoms lasted for months or years, often with no signs of easing up. This was not well understood by the medical community, and so it was patients who banded together, often online, to support each other and raise awareness of a condition that they themselves termed, “Long Covid.”

This is the subject of a new book by our guest today, Ryan Prior. In The Long Haul: Solving the Puzzle of the Pandemic’s Long Haulers and How They Are Changing Healthcare Forever, Ryan documents the journey that people with Long Covid embarked on to advocate for recognition and understanding of this new condition in the medical community. He also shows how that advocacy was influenced heavily by those with another condition called myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome or ME/CFS. Writing from personal experience as someone who developed ME/CFS in high school, Ryan presents the similarities between ME and Long Covid, how they are both generally misunderstood by the medical profession, and how patients themselves were often on the front lines of understanding their own conditions and educating their doctors. He also connects these patient-led movements to the Disability Rights Movement of the 1970s and 80s and continuing today, and encourages the movements to unite around common goals.

Ryan Prior is currently a journalist-in-residence at The Century Foundation. He has been a health and science writer for CNN since 2015 and has also written for The Guardian, the Daily Beast, USA Today, STAT News, and Business Insider.

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