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May 10, 2021

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Vancouver Pastor Damion Young describes his long-haul struggles with COVID-19

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Pastor Damion Young, who contracted COVID-19 and still struggles with symptoms, poses for a portrait at his Vancouver apartment complex. Young worked as an Amazon truck driver, but has struggled to return to work because of long-term symptoms from COVID-19.
Pastor Damion Young, who contracted COVID-19 and still struggles with symptoms, poses for a portrait at his Vancouver apartment complex. Young worked as an Amazon truck driver, but has struggled to return to work because of long-term symptoms from COVID-19. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Editor’s Note: Pastor Damion Young, 44, leads Seeds of Greatness Ministries in Vancouver, and also worked as an Amazon truck driver. Young, who is the Vancouver NAACP’s religious chair, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in January. The following is an oral history, told from Young’s perspective, about his continued struggles with COVID-19 symptoms as well as what it has been like to minister during a pandemic. This is the first in a series of stories focused on local people’s experiences during the pandemic over the last year.

• • •

I was at work on Jan. 8, and I was coming down three flights of steps, and I just felt dizzy. I just felt like I couldn’t go anymore, and I didn’t understand why I felt that way.

I called my supervisor and said, “I’m going to bring you your van, because I don’t feel well.” I was just tapped out. I thought I was tired, but then I thought maybe something is going on. A friend took me to the doctor. I thought, “I need some rest, because I’ve been spinning my wheels.”

Come to find out, I had COVID.

• • •

After that, I was just out of it. I was sleeping a lot. I didn’t eat. COVID is brutal. You’re sweating half of the day. Having a fever, body aches, not being able to smell, fatigued, not being able to walk.

If I had to go to the bathroom from my bedroom, when I returned to my bedroom, I’m just out of it for seven hours. It took everything to make it there. It was unreal. It was the fight of my life.

I’m real cautious, and with my Amazon job, I’m in the van by myself. I never had too much contact with people. That’s how I had been, and to catch COVID and not understand how you got it, this thing is for real. That’s the place where my faith kicked in. You’re just praying for healing.

The doctor told me there’s no answers for me. But now on the other side, they said I should be back up in two weeks. Well, what if you can’t get up because COVID affects everybody differently?

• • •

Now, I was always healthy. I always managed a schedule between working a 40-hour week with my pastoral responsibilities and doing volunteer work for the NAACP. That’s a heavy schedule, but I had the energy to undertake all that. Other people who were infected with COVID are saying the same thing as me: they’re tired during the day.

I like delivering packages because we’re always outside and getting exercise. But do I have that energy now? No. Thinking about going back to work stresses me out. I know I don’t have 10 hours worth of energy.

I go down to the mailbox and come back and I’m winded, like I ran a marathon. The trash is going out once a week now. I’m thinking about, “I have to go down there to take the trash out.” You’re thinking about what to undertake, and that’s not normal. They gave me an inhaler for my breathing. They need to do all these exams because they can’t pinpoint anything.

• • •

It makes you value health, the importance of it. You never know how your health plays a part in your life when you’re always healthy. You never think about those things until you’re struggling.

I haven’t returned to work yet. I’m just trying to gauge where my body is at. We’ve been playing it week by week. There’s still that breathing aspect. My job is not like I go sit down and work at a cubicle for eight hours. I have to be moving, and I don’t have the wind.

Am I going to be able to undertake that job and have the same level of energy? I really don’t see it. It’s really coming to that place and realizing I’m likely not going to be able to do this. What do I do now?

On a faith level, I know God is going to work it out, but I’m a creature of habit. This interrupts my routine.

• • •

I love my job because of people. The Amazon driver is important. People want to see you. Families rely on you to do your job and get them what they need. You’re delivering Pampers for the baby or something for Dad, who is taking on a project in the garage.

It was a sense of being tied to the solution in the midst of COVID. That was cool. I like that aspect of my job, being tied to people. It’s an awesome thing to help people.

That’s what we try to do on our Zoom services every Sunday morning. Some people haven’t had interaction all week long, so those are points for interaction. Even going to the grocery store, there’s an uneasiness of being around people.

We’ve never experienced that in society.

During the pandemic there’s even more of a need to reach out to people, just give people an encouraging message, something that’s positive.

• • •

When I got sick, I had comments from people who said, “Wow, you got COVID!” Like God’s servants shouldn’t get it? Like I have special pull from God? (Laughs). I’m transparent about it. The reality is, it helps us be stronger and more open to just talk about things that are going on.

It can happen to anybody. This is real. Some people don’t know. In the beginning, I didn’t know myself because I hadn’t encountered people with COVID, but now I’ve encountered people who are part of our faith community and they have relatives who are dying. That’s traumatic.

People are getting phone calls from family members hearing a relative got sick, then they got well, and then it just took a turn. There’s different ways you’re going to deal with death. If it’s more of a natural death and it’s expected, it can be easier to deal with.

As human beings, we can wrap our minds around the idea that at some point in time I do have to transition from this life, but when it’s unexpected and it seems like life was cut off, our minds don’t deal well with that.

I’m just helping people in their time of bereavement. Do I have all the answers? No. There’s some things that I don’t even try to say. It’s just about being there, because there’s nothing I can say to bring back that loss.

After this is all over, we still have to help people. There’s going to be more mental health issues. There’s going to be businesses lost, but even more so, there will be a loss of people.