LOGAN SQUARE — At the end of March, Kaitlyn McAvoy got sick with what she thinks was coronavirus. Although she was never tested or went to the hospital because she didn’t show severe symptoms, she said the illness hit her and her husband hard for a few weeks. Her whole body ached and she lost her sense of taste and smell.
“Personally, I have never been more still and inactive for all of my life,” said McAvoy, who is still not feeling 100 percent better. “It really knocks you down and you don’t have any energy.”
Seeing the pandemic also affect friends and family in other ways, the Logan Square resident wanted to use her recovery period to be creative and highlight this time in history. She created a website to share stories from people living through the pandemic and how it is affecting their lives.
People During a Pandemic launched April 14 and so far features 12 stories from people in Chicago and beyond. McAvoy, who is a communications manager for a statewide nonprofit but has a journalism background, said she started interviewing her friends and family for the project but has since shared stories from acquaintances and strangers who have reached out to her upon hearing about her site.
“I really wanted to be able to document life as we know it right now so that my future children and, hopefully, future generations can see these people’s stories as this is what people were going through back then,” she said.
McAvoy has interviewed people in various industries and with different perspectives, but they all have something to say about how the pandemic is affecting them.
“No matter what your situation is right now, you are somehow directly impacted by what is happening and your feelings, your concerns, your anxieties are yours,” she said. “Every single person has a voice, but they aren’t often prompted to speak. And I think it’s really important to ask people, no matter what they do, no matter how seemingly put together or how fortunate or they are, to tell me about [their experience], because everyone has something to share.”
Stories feature voices from a local Spanish teacher transitioning to e-learning, a hairstylist who is out of work, a medical lab scientist testing specimens for COVID-19 and exposing herself to the virus and a furloughed fertility nurse.
McAvoy said while she has learned a great deal from every person about resiliency, gratitude and fortune through uncertainty, she said interviewing her cousin, who is expecting her first child, was especially emotional.
McAvoy said the fear and anxiety her cousin Brittany shared in her story about bringing a child into a pandemic-stricken world hit her personally because she and her husband are also trying to start a family. She said she had to physically step away from writing Brittany’s story multiple times.
“Having to put that on paper made me realize how difficult the situation is for a lot of people and specifically for her when I care about her so much,” McAvoy said.
Brittany, who requested her last name not be published, told Block Club she’s still worried about going to the hospital to deliver her daughter, but she is glad she’s close enough to family that they can drive by or see her baby from the porch.
“I was nervous at first to share [my story] but if it can help or inspire somebody then I think it’s worth sharing,” said Brittany, who is due May 18.
Another story on People During a Pandemic is from Charlie Jungwirth, a longtime friend of McAvoy’s who recently started a job at TPAN, an Edgewater nonprofit that provides services and education to people with HIV.
Jungwirth, who lives in Ravenswood, shared the perks of starting a new role remotely and how he’s keeping a normal schedule during the pandemic. While he acknowledged the stresses of working with a team he’s never met, he is comforted to know everyone is in this together.
People During a Pandemic “is a way to tell people’s stories and get away from your own realities, to relate and inspire,” Jungwirth said.
McAvoy said that was her goal — to show that behind every statistic about coronavirus, there is a person.
“I hope that by sharing these real stories of real people, it’s bringing some humanity to this sometimes seemingly-horrific situation we’re in,” she said. “I just want people to feel connected to their neighbors, to their community, to everyone around the world and that it’s okay to be scared. This is the time to do the best you can for the collective good.”
Those who would like to submit their stories to People During a Pandemic can do so online or by emailing email@example.com.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
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