Quarantined Voices

On the Transformative Impact of COVID Narratives at a Time of Crisis

  • Ann E. Wallace
Keywords: COVID-19, narrative medicine, patient, survivor, pandemic, longhaul COVID


The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked new ways of not only gathering epidemiological information but also of telling the story of illness. In the early months of the pandemic, a collaborative relationship quickly developed out of necessity in the United States between medical professionals and those suffering with the novel disease, flattening the traditional hierarchy of the rhetorical doctor-patient relationship. COVID patients worked to correct the limited narrative that took root early in countries such as the United States and shared information, online and through patient-led research, of a relentlessly destructive disease. The author shares her experience as a long-haul COVID patient and analyzes the ways that patients have deployed a new illness narrative—composed online in fragments by the very sick and marked by uncertainty and determination—as a tool for gathering and sharing epidemiological information. Put simply, COVID patients, working online, in isolation and while acutely sick, have strategically used their stories to inform medical professionals and the public alike, and have created a new form of illness narrative in the process.