His wife killed herself after suffering debilitating long COVID symptoms, and now he's bringing awareness to the condition
Nick Güthe says he hopes to get more people to take long COVID seriously.
“Just hang on.” That’s the message from a local film-maker whose wife – who had been suffering from debilitating long-haul COVID symptoms – killed herself aged 50.
In the months before screenwriter Heidi Ferrer took her own life, she suffered debilitating long-haul COVID symptoms, says Güthe.
"Really serious exhaustion that came with simple tasks," he explained to KCLU, of her symptoms.
He says she also had aches and pains that went on for months, a rapid racing heart rate and could hardly place her feet on the ground because they were so painful.
He says it was hard to get the condition taken seriously, but Ferrer was what some experts say could be millions of “long haulers”, who face lingering health issues after a bout of COVID-19.
He's speaking out about long COVID, to keep a promise to his late wife to share information about the condition.
"Three weeks before Heidi died, we thought she might have a stroke or a heart attack because her heart was racing out of control.
"She said to me, 'If something happens to me, will you please let the world know what long COVID does to people.'" said Güthe.
"People were being gas-lit back then. They still are. But I didn't expect three weeks later to be confronted with keeping that promise."
Güthe says his usually healthy and vibrant wife was in excruciating pain, and suffered exhaustion.
"When you're in chronic debilitating pain all day long, it's going to affect your mental state.
"This wasn't like mild aches and pains from the flu. She said it was like having bees sting your ankles, 24 hours a day. That's how bad it was," he said.
"She was very concerned she was going to be debilitated for life. "
There's no diagnostic test for long COVID, but Güthe says his wife researched her condition and was in no doubt as to what she was suffering and connected with others over social media.
He told KCLU that several weeks before her death, she started to also experience neurological tremors that wouldn't let her sleep for more than an hour at a time.
Ferrer recorded a goodbye video, which Güthe says was made on her final day.
"She expressed her love for everyone. And explained how desperate and bad things had gotten and that she didn't think she would get any better."
They share a son, and after she died by suicide at their family home, the pair sought refuge at Güthe's mother’s home in Ojai, Ventura County.
Güthe says he wants others who may be suffering like his wife did, to keep hope.
"There's so many people with long COVID out there who, unfortunately, are suicidal.
"I keep telling them to hang on, I keep telling them that hope is coming.
He continued, "I would urge anybody to sign up for Survivor Corp or anybody out there who is having those thoughts to understand that hope is on the way.
"When you make a decision like my wife did, it reverberates for generations. It causes collateral damage to an entire family."
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.