The long haul survivors: WOVU to host event to celebrate and educate COVID-19 survivors

In August 2020 Taquita Michelle Brown was busy caring for her newborn and nine-year-old daughters while also studying to be a nurse at Cuyahoga Community College and working in a nursing home.

<span class="content-image-text">Taquita Michelle Brown</span>Taquita Michelle BrownThen she got COVID-19, and everything stopped. The Glenville resident, who is also an insulin-dependent diabetic, was diagnosed and sent home to quarantine for two weeks and undergo daily monitoring by the Centers for Disease Control.

“I thought I was going to die,” Brown recalls. “I was scared because I had a newborn at the time.” Brown was released from quarantine two-and-a-half weeks later and neither of her daughters contracted the virus.

But nearly 16 months after recovering from the coronavirus, Brown still suffers from debilitating headaches related to the virus and she’s having trouble returning to school and work.

“Before I caught COVID I never got headaches,” Brown says. “Now, they come often. It’s hard for me to concentrate. My appetite is not up to par, so I have to force myself to eat.”

Even though the population of Cuyahoga County is 63% white and 29% Black, according to the United Way of Greater Cleveland's 2020 Needs Assessment Black residents in Cleveland made up 49% of COVID-19 cases and 61% of COVID-19 hospitalizations last year.

And, like Brown, many Clevelanders who have had the coronavirus are still suffering the virus’ effects. Ailments can range from severe headaches, like Brown’s, to breathing troubles and other physical issues, to psychological problems and depression.

In other words, researchers are finding that the effects of COVID-19 can last long after the virus is gone from the body—known as Post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), or Long COVID.  

<span class="content-image-text">Jae Williams, Program Manager at WOVU 95.9 FM</span>Jae Williams, Program Manager at WOVU 95.9 FMGiven the disproportionate number of Black residents in Cleveland who have gotten the coronavirus, WOVU 95.9 FM Burten, Bell Carr Radio general manager Jae Williams—himself a Long COVID survivor—knew something had to be done.

In October, the Greater Cleveland COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund provided Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc. a $60,000 grant to raise awareness of Long COVID survivors and their families in the African American community through a program with WOVU 95.9 FM.

So on Saturday, Nov. 27 WOVU will present "I am a Survivor: COVID-19 The Long Haul" to address two specific challenges occurring within the Greater Cleveland African American community: The lack of available services related to Long COVID and the fear and distrust of available health services.

Williams, who in March 2020 was in the ICU in a coma and on a ventilator for 24 days before waking to be told he would have continued complications from the virus, says he wants to make the public aware of the physical and psychological conditions many COVID-19 survivors must deal with.

“There is so much emphasis placed on COVID-19 deaths, COVID-19 Vaccinations; wear you mask, and practice social distancing,” says Williams. “No one is really speaking out on behalf of COVID-19 Survivors and the lingering symptoms.”

The organization also wants to make support recourses available to COVID-19 survivors and help them overcome vaccine hesitancy.

Brown, for instance, has not yet gotten her vaccine. “I looked into getting the shot, but I’m scared,” she says. “I’m scared to get it, but it’s probably a good cause. I want to attend [the event] so I can get more information on how COVID works.”

<span class="content-image-text">Le'Andria</span>Le'AndriaThe event will feature award-winning gospel singer Le'Andria Johnson.

Additionally, four COVID-19 survivors will be present on Nov. 27 to share their stories, as well as several speakers: Dale Anglin, vice president of programming for the Cleveland Foundation; Timothy L. Tramble, president and CEO of the Saint Luke’s Foundation; Alan K. Nevel, senior vice president and chief equity officer with MetroHealth System; Dr. Charles Modlin, medical director, inclusion, diversity, and equity with MetroHealth System; Dr. Sherrie D. Williams, pulmonary, sleep, and critical care with MetroHealth System; and representatives from Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, and the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland.

"I am a Survivor" takes place on Saturday, Nov. 27 at 5 p.m. at Pentecostal Church of Christ, 10515 Chester Ave. The event is free and open to the public, but guests must register for tickets. All attendees must present proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than14 days prior to the event.