About two months into her battle with COVID-19, Danielle Theriault began to question if the tingling, pain, and brain fog were all in her head.
After all, doctors told her it was anxiety, and even her husband, a physician who’d more fully recovered from the illness, wasn’t so sure her complaints were directly related to the disease. It wasn’t supposed to last that long, they all said.
Finding a Facebook group for “long haulers,” an online community of people who’ve had COVID-19 symptoms for at least 100 days, helped Theriault feel more validated.
But it wasn’t until she connected with Loverelle Bryne, another member of the group, that she knew what she was experiencing was real.
Bryne had messaged Theriault after noticing her Disney-set profile picture, and the two quickly deduced they shared COVID symptoms, had similar interests and family lives, and lived within 30 minutes of each other in Florida.
They began talking on the phone and texting, something they continue to do to this day, many months later.
Hearing from Bryne “just made everything a reality, but also helps me cope,” Theriault said. “We have a child the same age, we both love Disney … we have so many things in common that even after this, we’ll still be friends.”
The pair talked to Insider about how their friendship has been the most effective coping mechanism, physically and emotionally, in their battles so far.
“Without her, I don’t think I’d be able to go through what I’m going through right now,” Theriault said. Bryne agreed: “100%.”
Their long-running sicknesses were similar, and reflective of a disturbing trend
Bryne, a business owner, first came down with a fever and sore throat March 12. She suspects she picked it up in a hospital waiting room while her husband was undergoing knee surgery.
For Theriault, who worked as a teacher and fitness instructor pre-COVID, the illness struck March 16 after her family decided to return from a house-hunting trip in South Florida that corresponded with spring breakers crowding beaches and restaurants.
The other members of their families have all experienced some symptoms, but are doing well now save for some mild aches and pains.
For Bryne and Theriault, though, the hits keep coming. Theriault has had tingling and numbness in her arms, cheek, and lips; for Bryne it feels like her nerves are burning from head to toe. “The right side of my throat I haven’t felt in three weeks,” she said during an interview with Insider in July.
Both have had tachychardia, or a racing heart, for which they’ve been prescribed beta blockers. “It was so bad that I couldn’t go to sleep and my heart was jumping all over,” said Theriault, who also uses two inhalers to cope with shortness of breath since COVID.
Both have experienced abdominal and rib pain, and headaches (daily migraines followed by brain fog in Theriault’s case). “I feel like I am looking through a window at my life, but I’m not living the life,” she said in July.
Like many other “long haulers,” the symptoms come in waves. Their symptoms were mild at first and then seemed to fade, prompting them to hang out with friends again and exercise, but then came back far worse.
Both went to the emergency room in May for severe shortness of breath and were given steroids, which didn’t help.
“After I did the steroids, I became really bad,” said Bryne, who was given a high dose of dexamethasone. “May and June were the absolute worst. July, I seem to be getting a grip on it — not that my symptoms are leaving, but mentally becoming used to living with symptoms every day.”
By August, Theriault’s symptons had eased enough for her to do yoga twice a week and use a pedal bike almost nightly. In September, Bryne was still experiencing some neurological issues and continues to visit different doctors.
Their bond eased the strain in their marriages
Their relationship has also eased the strain the disease has taken on both of their marriages. Previously, both spouses were concerned about the women’s symptoms, but skeptical they were due to COVID. Marital arguments only made the symptoms worse.
“The other woman” made the disease real to the men too, and gave Theriault and Bryne another listening ear. That’s improved their ability to cope, which in turn supports their marriages.
“I think now that I have figured out how to accept the symptoms and deal with them and I’m learning more and I’m able to be a little bit more calm and not anxious with it, our relationship is better,” Theriault said in July.
In early September, both families met at the beach and “got along great,” Bryne said. They’re planning future outings together.
They are still dealing with symptoms more than 6 months in, but their friendship gets them through it
Every morning, one will text the other: How are you? How are your symptoms? Over the course of the day, they’ll talk on the phone for two hours.
Bryne appreciates Theriault’s outlook. “You have to find someone who’s positive because there’ve been times when I’ve wanted to jump of a cliff and she’s like, ‘It’s just this, you’ll be fine,” Bryne said.
Theriault respects Bryne’s conscientiousness when it comes to trying various treatments. While the former is typically quick to try any supplement, the latter is more research-driven. “She’s like, ‘Wait, wait, here are the side effects,'” Theriault said.
They’ve gone to many of the same doctors and specialists — namely women, who they’ve found are less likely to dismiss their symptoms with a Xanax prescription. They’ve met for lunches in between appointments and are planning their first post-COVID “date” to Disney World.
“Getting this [disease,]” Theriault said,” has brought me to a really good person and a really good friend.”
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