Mona Diallo, a West Baltimore community activist and advocate utilizes a catheter at home as she continues her recovery from COVID 19. (Courtesy Photo)

By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
syoes@afro.com

For Mona Diallo, a community activist and advocate based in West Baltimore, community truly is everything.

And many of the members of the community she loves and lives in recently rallied around her mightily after she announced via Facebook that she had contracted COVID-19, which has killed more than a half million Americans.

“The community came through!” Diallo told the AFRO. “The love carried me through for real. I had people from Africa that hired a vegan chef to bring me meals to my house. I had my neighborhood association do a meditation and pointed to my house on the map via Zoom.”

Yet, despite the outpouring of love and support Diallo, who is in her 50s, is not out of the woods yet, which speaks to the tenacious and insidious nature of this disease that has killed millions around the globe. Diallo still grapples with significant fatigue, brain fog and other ailments that continue to cling to her since she was officially diagnosed with the disease on Jan. 29. But, the deadly virus had been gradually making its presence known for days prior to the official diagnosis.

On Jan. 23, Diallo said she had a seafood dinner with two girlfriends. The group of women had referred to themselves as “their pod” because of their determination to only interact with each other socially (beyond their partners) practicing social distancing and the other COVID precautions. 

“We brought the food home and sat at the dining room table six feet apart,” Diallo said. “That day I felt really weird. I felt really strange, I didn’t have an appetite.” The next day she had a headache and assumed she had a sinus infection. That same day she requested antibiotics from her physician and she began taking medication on Jan. 26. 

“I was clammy, sweaty. I tried to brush my teeth and I was tired,” recalled Diallo, a runner, who normally is very active. “The fatigue got progressively worse. After giving birth there is an exhaustion…I felt 10 times worse than that. I said to myself, I bet you have COVID,” Diallo added. Then on Jan. 29, after her fifth COVID test over the course of several months she got the news she had been dreading.

Diallo still grapples with significant fatigue, brain fog and other ailments that continue to cling to her since she was officially diagnosed with the disease on Jan. 29. (Courtesy Photo)

“I remember sitting in Urgent Care and I started to tear up and I said, I don’t want to die,” Diallo confessed. Complicating the dire diagnosis is the fact she suffers with transverse myelitis, which can be triggered by an immune system disorder, in her case associated with Multiple Sclerosis.  However, instead of wallowing in her lament she decided to fight hard.

“I’m going to document this and let everybody know what is going on, so that people out there who can help, could help,” Diallo said. But, her path to full recovery and wellness has been arduous and elusive.

“You know how you can will your body into health? Or you feel like you’re getting better? I never felt like I was getting better. It was body aches like I never felt before, like someone was squeezing my muscles, like wringing them out,” she said. “I would see food I would usually love and automatically feel like I’m going to vomit. It just stays with you, and no energy. I could not stand up for more than 30 seconds. At the height of it, it took me 10 minutes to walk down the steps when normally it would take me 10 seconds to walk down the steps,” Diallo added.

Then the second week in February she seemed to begin to turn the corner in her battle with the recalcitrant disease. 

“I started drinking a lot of healing teas. I was just being hydrated,” she said. But, Diallo’s recovery proved to be short-lived.

“By Feb. 12, I started losing my appetite again. I was in the bed hot, sweating, shaking uncontrollably,” she added. Then after she attempted to have a Valentine’s dinner with her partner at a restaurant Diallo said she began to hallucinate the next morning. “I saw lights flashing…my temperature was 104…And he (her partner) called the ambulance and they took me in,” she explained. And that’s when she found out there was an additional medical roadblock impeding her COVID recovery. She was diagnosed with a kidney infection, which had triggered sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues. In Diallo’s case her liver, gall bladder and both kidneys were compromised by sepsis. Medical professionals explained two major rounds of antibiotics had stripped her body of the ability to fight bacteria.

And all of it was triggered by the seemingly unrelenting onslaught of COVID-19 that began at the end of January.

Despite the setbacks, Diallo is slowly recovering. However, this ordeal has compelled her to think about the people who are not as fortunate as her in their ability to battle this treacherous disease.

“I have an entire health food store in my house…I have a loving community and my children are being as attentive as they can while I’m in isolation. I have a thermometer, blood pressure cuff and an oximeter to monitor my vitals,” Diallo said.

“I’m eating organic soups and fruit from Whole Foods. I can work from home and I have medical leave. What about the millions that ain’t got sh**? That breaks my heart.”

 

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor