Tara Ghormley has always been an overachiever. She finished at the top of her class in high school, graduated summa cum laude from college and earned top honors in veterinary school. She went on to complete a rigorous training program and build a successful career as a veterinary internal medicine specialist. But in March 2020 she got infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus—just the 24th case in the small, coastal central California town she lived in at the time, near the site of an early outbreak in the COVID pandemic. “I could have done without being first at this,” she says.
Almost three years after apparently clearing the virus from her body, Ghormley is still suffering. She gets exhausted quickly, her heartbeat suddenly races, and she goes through periods where she can’t concentrate or think clearly. Ghormley and her husband, who have relocated to a Los Angeles suburb, once spent their free time visiting their “happiest place on Earth”—Disneyland—but her health prevented that for more than a year. She still spends most of her days off resting in the dark or going to her many doctors’ appointments. Her early infection and ongoing symptoms make her one of the first people in the country with “long COVID,” a condition where symptoms persist for at least three months after the infection and can last for years. The syndrome is known by medical professionals as postacute sequelae of COVID-19, or PASC.