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- American screenwriter and blogger
Over a year after screenwriter Heidi Ferrer died by suicide following a battle with long-haul COVID, her husband Nick Güthe is urging medical professionals to find "answers" to the debilitating condition.
On Wednesday, Güthe published an essay in The Guardian, detailing his late wife's struggle with COVID-19. Ferrer, who wrote for shows like Dawson's Creek and Wasteland, died at age 50 in May 2021. She first contracted the virus in April 2020, when her infection initially appeared to be "mostly asymptomatic," Güthe wrote.
He said that COVID-19 began to "systematically take her apart organ system by organ system," describing the experience as "the most terrifying deterioration of a human being I have ever witnessed."
"Three weeks before she died, we were already terrified that she would die – not by her own hand, but from a stroke or a heart attack," he wrote. "She said her heart would often race out of control for no reason, and she was ahead of scientists in understanding that this virus also infects the brain."
Güthe said long COVID affected his wife's gastrointestinal system and gave her exhaustion, body aches and brain fog, along with "a host of other ailments."
"Long Covid doesn't come for you all at once," he explained. "Instead, with methodical precision, it slowly robs you."
"Heidi lost her mobility and her ability to eat. She was a lifelong avid reader but the brain fog (better thought of as cognitive dysfunction) robbed her of the ability to retain information," he continued. "Even urinating and eventually, and cruelly, sex became painful. Long Covid seemed to steal every part of her life that made it worth living."
Güthe closed out his essay with a call to action, asking the "global medical community" to conduct further research on the "terrifying symptoms" of long COVID.
"I suspect that the risk of long Covid-related suicides will only increase. We will never have an accurate count of global infections, but preliminary research suggests that at least one in three people who get Covid will develop long Covid symptoms," he wrote. "If only one in 20 of those long Covid patients becomes disabled or seriously debilitated we could be looking at a disturbing increase in suicides worldwide."
He added, "I am not trying to be an alarmist, but we are in a true crisis. The global medical community must band together to find answers for those suffering. They are all Heidi and they are running out of time and hope."
As she experienced body aches and neurological tremors, Güthe said he and his wife struggled to get answers from doctors about Ferrer's condition. She was eventually referred to a long-haul COVID clinic after months, Güthe told CNN. In May, one day before Ferrer's death, they received a referral letter for the facility.
"That's how hard it is to get people to pay attention to people with long-haul Covid," he told CNN.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.