MY COVID STORY: GARY

Long COVID, unknown duration of ailments, is a worry for this retiree Gary is a retired university professor, with a […]

Close-up as a woman drips buffer solution from a plastic vial onto the lateral flow test device for Covid-19.

Long COVID, unknown duration of ailments, is a worry for this retiree

Gary is a retired university professor, with a distinguished career teaching English. An academic award is given in his name at a school where he taught for many years. He recently downsized and moved to be closer to family and friends in the Upper Midwest. 
Gary’s retirement plans included travel, gardening and work at colleges and universities near his new home. He looked forward to filling in for staff sabbaticals and as a part-time adjunct professor of English. That all changed with COVID-19. 

Gary lives with several disabilities including MS. He also has a compromised immune system. He has been faithful about keeping up with vaccines for COVID-19 and other conditions that affect people in their 70s and older. He masks up in public and takes other steps to not become ill. 

But Gary was unable to ward off COVID-19, and has had a few bouts of the disease. He has struggled with Long COVID effects. Those struggles have caused setbacks in his ongoing efforts to stay healthy. 

A bout of COVID-19 in early autumn has led to another round of weeks of fatigue, brain fog, flu-like symptoms and a couple of falls for Gary. He is using a walker again. 

“I just get so tired,” he said. He had enjoyed walking around the condo complex where he lives, and visiting a nearby park. “Now I have days when I can barely get from one end of my condo to another. Making dinner can wear me out.” 

At one point Gary lost his sense of smell and his sense of taste. 

Another worry for Gary is that because he lives in  a smaller community, it has been a challenge to find services and supports. He has limited personal care attendant help. He relies on Meals on Wheels more often than he would like. “I miss cooking,” he said. 

Gary’s greatest fear is that despite his taking precautions, he could wind up with Long COVID issues for the rest of his life. “I know that not everyone who has Long COVID recovers fully and that really is scary for me. It’s not how I planned to spend my retirement.” 

From Access Press: Symptoms of Long COVID can include shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, headaches, dizziness, brain fog and memory issues. Symptoms may last for months or years, affecting mental health, quality of life and financial stability. 

Long COVID and post-COVID conditions can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in certain cases. 

Some people with Long COVID have mild to moderate symptoms that gradually get better after several months. Others may have more severe symptoms and face challenges returning to work, school, family life, exercise and other activities that help them to thrive. A subset of people will have very severe symptoms that leave them newly disabled by Long COVID. It isn’t yet known if these effects will be permanent. 

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) was one of the first state health departments in the country to have a program and staff dedicated to Long COVID and post-COVID conditions. Read more at MN Department of Health.

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