Fiona is a journalist and the founder of Body Politic, a queer feminist wellness collective, event series and media company. Since being hospitalized for COVID-19, Fiona has written for numerous publications to raise awareness and founded an online support group for those recovering from the disease.
You’ve become a public voice during this pandemic. Why was it important to share your story?
Telling my story in the media and starting the Body Politic COVID-19 Support Group were helpful ways for me to recover from the trauma of being sick and hospitalized. The experience of offering emotional support and raising awareness has been very beneficial to my own healing process and mental health. This work made me feel less helpless and more like myself at a time when I was grappling with physical symptoms that often left me feeling confused and out of control.
What positive results have come out of the online support group you’ve started?
By far, the most positive result has been seeing the incredible impact of the group on the patients who join. I receive messages every day from group members who tell me they think this group saved their life—both by helping them access medical resources and knowledge and by helping them feel less alone. Beyond that, there have been some exceptional tangible impacts.
A group of patients within our support group got together and designed a survey on prolonged symptoms of COVID-19. Their work was featured in The Atlantic.
I think our group has also had a significant impact on the mainstream news narrative of COVID-19. When I wrote my second op-ed in The New York Times about my slow recovery from COVID-19, most people still believed COVID-19 patients would recover after two weeks. Public knowledge was significantly lagging regarding recovery times, the false binary of “mild” vs. “severe” COVID-19 cases, and the myriad of symptoms that many COVID-19 patients face. Many in our group were frustrated that their own experiences weren’t being reflected in the news, so we worked with GLAAD to offer media training to members of our group. As a journalist who’s been covering these topics myself, I’ve found it extraordinary to see the effect that our efforts have had on redirecting media attention to long-haul COVID-19 patients and the issues they face.
Finally, we’ve heard from dozens of scientists, doctors, research groups and nonprofits that are interested in learning from our work and collaborating on future studies. The opportunity to use our patient-centric approach to impact scientific innovation and medicine is absolutely amazing.
What does it mean to be an ally to more vulnerable populations during this crisis?
When COVID-19 first hit New York, I assumed my role would be as an ally to the elderly and immune-compromised. Then it became clear that young people without pre-existing conditions (like myself) could also become very sick with the illness. It’s not lost on me that my story went viral in part because I am young, thin, white and ivy-league educated. It’s been said that COVID-19 does not discriminate, and while it’s true that there is no age, race, amount of money or level of “health” that can guarantee you won’t become infected, these are still determining factors in whether you can stay home, what kind of care you’ll receive and how costly your medical expenses will be. Black and Brown communities have been hit especially hard. It’s only become more obvious in the past month that some lives and some stories are valued over others—and race and economic access play a huge role.
I try to use my own platform to advocate on behalf of issues I see in the group, such as the impact of medical bias on COVID-19 patients. Our group is currently working on figuring out how we can develop our own technology or platform that will be more accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds. We’re also creating resources to support protestors who may become sick with COVID-19.
Learn more about the Body Politic COVID-19 Support Group: wearebodypolitic.com
Read Fiona’s writing on COVID-19: