What Covid-19 Did to My Brain

Long after my acute symptoms waned, my brain still couldn’t keep up. Here’s why experts think that may be.

Jessica Firger


Images from the author’s brain scans

My stove burners were filthy. I had put off cleaning them for close to five weeks, but cleaning falls to the bottom of a to-do list when you live alone and have to convalesce in a pandemic. It was the first week of May, and my acute textbook Covid-19 symptoms — fever, chest pain, shortness of breath — had gone away weeks ago. Now I was standing in my kitchen, grateful to be putting my life back together again. Though there was one part of me that definitely hadn’t recovered yet.

I finished dinner and grabbed the scrubbing sponge to chip away at the layers of crud on the stove. I had just put the kettle on to boil moments before, but the way my mind was working it could have been years ago that I’d decided to make tea. When I consider just how close I was to moving the kettle over to put my hand in an open flame and pick up a searing-hot burner grate, my body still shakes. But at that point, a month after recovering from Covid-19, it was my reality. My brain was broken. This had been going on for close to two weeks.

There was the time I walked from my bedroom to the bathroom and, out of habit, washed my hands immediately (and quite thoroughly!) but then forgot to pee…