Biology major completes degree while battling long-haul COVID

June 09, 2021

Kamal Kang was planning courses for her final semester at SFU last fall when she started experiencing headaches, fatigue and chest pain. Testing confirmed that the biological sciences major had contracted COVID-19.

Kang managed to complete the three courses and two labs she needed to graduate, but not before experiencing the most severe symptoms months after her original diagnosis. The virus affected four of her six household family members, with three of them, including herself, contracting long-haul COVID.

 “Long-haul COVID is a real thing and it's one of the toughest challenges anyone can experience,” she says.

Her symptoms included body aches, headaches, coughing, chest pain and fatigue that affected her ability sleep and brain fog that made concentrating on school work difficult.

She quit her job as an educator for young children and gave up her volunteer position as a pen pal to those in care homes so that she could focus on completing her coursework and graduating on schedule.

She learned to cope by waking up early to study and complete assignments before the extreme fatigue and brain fog set in. “At that point, I knew it was time to put the books away,” she says.

She also reached out to her professors for help.

“I had very generous professors that were glad to make arrangements. They allowed me to pace everything out on a timely manner — allowing me to hand in things late and ensuring that all of my exams were spread apart so that I could focus on each exam and balance it with enough rest.”

Kang feels that she was lucky to have understanding professors and she is aware that not all students might be as fortunate.  She urges students to talk to their instructors and ask for help. “In this way, maybe some professors can be more aware of a student’s situation and students can be aware that they have help and that they're not alone.”

In the six months since her diagnosis, Kang’s symptoms have become more manageable and she has learned to pace herself to combat lingering fatigue. COVID likely contributed to her recent asthma diagnosis and she now uses an inhaler to help her breathe freely.

Kang takes it all in stride, saying  “If there is anything that this pandemic has taught me, it’s patience and surrendering to the divine flow of life!”

The new graduate hopes to put her experience and education towards a health-related career.