25 Investigates: Boston photographer among first people in Mass. to get COVID-19

How it changed her life

BOSTON — In February 2020, a single conference in Boston led to hundreds of thousands of cases of COVID-19. The Biogen conference at the Boston’s Long Wharf Marriot hotel was the first significant cluster of cases in Massachusetts.

As all of us were learning about the virus, those who got sick, early on, got a scary crash course. Anchor and investigative reporter Kerry Kavanaugh was first to speak with someone at that conference who got sick in Massachusetts. Kerry reconnected with her one year later about what she’s endured since.

“What were you doing a year ago this week,” Kavanaugh asked.

“I had just recovered from COVID-19 was one of the first people in the city to have gotten it,” said Lara Woolfson.

We first introduced you to Woolfson in March 2020. She took to social media to talk about her experience with the virus. She wanted people to know it was real and needed to be taken it seriously. She also contacted 25 Investigates to share her story.

“I was just out doing my job acting normal and the next thing you know, I’m in an emergency room surrounded by people in spacesuits,” Woolfson told Kavanaugh on March 23, 2020.

Woolfson is a professional photographer. She was shooting a conference at Boston’s Marriot Long Wharf hotel for the Cambridge-based company Biogen before much was known about the virus.

“My experience feels so small and personal. And yet I know how many other people that this event affected,” she said.

One study revealed that single conference is now tied to some 330,000 cases worldwide, including Woolfson’s.

“COVID-19 was the most sick that I’ve ever been personally. I was bedridden for eight days, in terrible pain, aches and the worst fatigue I’ve ever had,” Woolfson said. “I recovered fairly quickly, and have had no lingering side effects, which I’m really grateful for. But this year, on the whole, I’m not unlike others, my whole life changed.”

For starters, as an event photographer, work dried up immediately. Woolfson’s physically healthy, but COVID-19 took an emotional toll.

“In many ways, I felt a little bit like a guinea pig, you know, going to the hospital and having them you know, check with the CDC come back and tell me information. So that was that was scary,” she said.

But through that fear and the sudden shutdown came a sense of renewal.

“I think that if this year has taught me anything, it really, really centered me on what’s important. That family is important that doing things that you love,” Woolfson said.

About that the importance of family, Woolfson lost her father to cancer in February. But, a world on pause allowed her to spend time with him in his final months.

“I definitely feel the most grateful I’ve ever felt,” she told Kavanaugh. “And while there are lots of lows, I think I experienced some of the greatest joys I’ve ever had this year too.”

Woolfson says she now gives back in a very meaningful way, donating her plasma. Seven months after she was sick, she still had the COVID-19 anti-bodies. She’s donating again soon, hopeful the antibodies are still present so she can continue to help people recover from the virus.

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