I'm far from recovered.
It’s always frustrating to me when I hear the statistics in ND of those people who have ‘recovered’ from COVID. It has been 13 months since my COVID-19 illness and I’m far from recovered.
I am a healthcare provider and contracted COVID last summer while treating patients in the COVID unit at the hospital in Bismarck where I had been employed for 17 years. I left work July 17, 2020, like it was any other day, and have never been back to work. In fact, I no longer have a job. I have neurological effects from COVID, some of which are quite unusual. I’ve had damage to parts of my brain that processes information, as a result of the virus.
My brain can’t process input from my senses normally – for example sound and visual movement. Sounds are painfully loud to me now and very distracting. Visually, both bright lights and movement such as scrolling on a computer screen, watching TV or even conversing with anyone using their hands to gesture when they speak cause me trouble. These all make me dizzy and nauseous and cause severe headaches. My own voice and the sound of my chewing is too loud! The health of my eyes and the accuracy of my vision have been affected as well. Nerve damage is causing numbness and tingling in my hands, feet, and face and my sense of smell hasn’t returned.
Prior to my illness I loved my work as an acute care speech language pathologist working with adults with neuro injuries such as stroke, head injuries or the effects of COVID. In severe cases, COVID causes patients to have difficulty with swallowing and the ability to take nutrition orally. These ‘dysphagia’ patients were the patients I was treating when I came down with COVID, despite use of all infection control equipment and procedures. I was also an adjunct instructor teaching dysphagia treatment (swallowing difficulty) at the local university prior to my COVID induced illness.
I’ve seen many medical specialists including neurology, infectious disease, neuro-optometry, audiology and ENT including my own rehab therapy team for OT and PT. I continue to follow up with the Long Covid Clinic at University of Minnesota, but treatment for an injury like mine is really uncharted. I’ve tried every darn thing, and spent many thousands of dollars for little benefit. I am still unable to work and am pretty isolated since these new deficits make every interaction with family, friends or even a trip to a coffee shop or grocery store quite difficult. All these situations are too loud and visually stimulating for me. I get fatigued quickly. I’ve seen some improvement and can participate for short intervals now, but they always take a toll on me.
I haven’t been to church in over a year. My quality of life and finances have been dramatically impacted by COVID, and it certainly has affected my family as well. This is even though I never had pulmonary symptoms and was never hospitalized. I am much too young to be so limited in activity; I want to contribute and return to work and teaching and to my patients. My priorities now are even more important to me – my roles as wife and mother, daughter and sister.
My message is to get vaccinated!! Hidden injuries like mine can be very debilitating and I had no pre-existing conditions to make me more likely to have COVID affect me this way.