St. Louis woman shares story of fighting long-haul COVID twice to encourage others feeling isolated
“I look like a healthy person on the outside, but on the inside I’m struggling.”
ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - High school teacher Ashley Bailey finds her daily routine to be no walk in the park as she battles her second stint of “Long-haul” COVID.
Sitting on a bench in Whitecliff Park in Crestwood, she catches her breath. She suffers from troubled breathing, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and brain fog.
“I couldn’t think of the word cemetery [last semester] and I’m explaining to my students you know the place where bodies are buried,” Bailey explained. “They’re like you mean a cemetery, and I’m like oh yeah.”
Bailey, 46, was first diagnosed with COVID in April 2020, early in the pandemic when the vaccine didn’t exist and testing wasn’t widely available.
“A lot of times I say I have long Covid, they ask if I’m contagious,” Bailey shared. “They are afraid they will get it. I’m not contagious.”
She’s contracted the virus three more times since.
" When I went to the doctor, all these scans and tests they’d say my lungs are great but why I can’t breathe? Things would come back clear but there was no scientific, medical proof for why I was feeling that.”
According to the CDC, 1 in 13 adults in the U.S. (7.5%) have “long COVID” symptoms, defined as symptoms lasting three or more months after first contracting the virus, and that they didn’t have prior to their COVID-19 infection. Women are more likely than men to currently have long COVID (9.4% vs. 5.5%).
Bailey said her school, staff and students have been supportive but also said she feels bad reducing her responsibilities.
“As a teacher, you’re supposed to do the extra things, right? Like monitor the hallway and I couldn’t do that stuff,” Bailey said.
The constant pain forced Bailey to quit her side jobs. Her extra cash flow stopped and then came the doctor bills. Now the veteran teacher is considering going on disability.
“I want to work,” Bailey shared. “I want to be out there working and doing, believe me, I’m not one to sit around.”
To regain her strength, Bailey visits Washington University’s Center for Advanced Medicine. There she receives occupational, speech, and physical therapy.
“People who have ‘Long-COVID’ don’t want to be isolated, they don’t want to have to use a wheelchair. I want to be back to my normal fun-loving self and that we aren’t making it up,” Bailey said.
Bailey is a dog lover. She helps foster several furry friends and they keep her moving. She credits them for part of her recovery.
She said she’s thankful for friends and family who push her to get in public. Literally, if a task or errand requires too much energy, she sometimes finds herself pulling out a wheelchair to conserve energy.
“Everyone’s so much taller than you and they are having conversations and I feel kind of left out,” Bailey explained. “People will bend down to try and include me in the conversation, It’s very strange.”
Each challenge she faces is a humbling lesson to never take life for granted.
“I don’t have it as rough. I have a job. It’s hard to imagine someone who has two or three jobs to make ends meet,” Bailey explained. “If they got laid off or if they missed their shifts, how would they pay their bills?”
“Not everyone is okay even if they look like it. Just be compassionate,” Bailey shared. “That’s what it comes down to.”
Bailey said the first thing she wants to do when she’s back to full strength is see a Cardinals game from the green seats. It’s a bucket list item.
In the meantime, she is working with Washington University’s Living Well Center to meet others who are battling “Long-haul.”
If you are someone with long-haul COVID or know someone who does who may want to meet others facing similar challenges, click here to learn more about the center and future meetings.
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