Mr. Valena said 90 percent of his clients come to him for their first tattoo, and in the aftermath of the pandemic, he’s seen a surge in requests for Covid-related designs.
When these clients come into Mr. Valena's studio, they are ready to talk. Just the process of getting a tattoo can be therapeutic. “They tell me their stories, and I am there to listen,” he said. “I have that time with them when they can unload, and it’s pretty special.” They have an urgency to them, like they don’t want to put off getting one any longer. “People are getting words that have spoken to them, stuff like ‘surrender’ and ‘strength,’” he said. “One of my clients, his father passed from Covid, and he ended up getting a rose for him.”
“I was hospitalized seven times,” said Rachael Sunshine, 44, who lives in Coxsackie, N.Y. She has a degenerative nerve disease, which put her at a high risk for getting a serious case of the virus. “When Covid struck, I was one of those people who were supposed to die if they caught it.”
Against the odds she survived Covid not once but twice, she said. The virus damaged her heart, and she then survived heart surgery as well.
On May 26, 2021, her 44th birthday, she went to Cape Cod, Mass., to celebrate surviving and got a tattoo of a heart surrounded by coronavirus spike proteins, which is the logo of Survivor Corps, a group that connects Covid-19 survivors. “The tears were just coming down my eyes,” she said. “I said to the artist, ‘This has been such a long year.’ We talked for two hours about all the stuff I went through.