Shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hillsboro native Greta King tested positive in her home state of Colorado. What she thought would be a two-week illness has turned into a six months of fatigue and cognitive dysfunction.
“It’s been such an odd year for everyone, but I think I’ve done about as well as anyone else,” King said.
She was diagnosed with COVID-19 on April 2, and said that although she was never hospitalized, she still became very sick due to the illness.
“After two to three weeks, I started to feel a little better,” she said. “Not great, but better than when I had COVID.”
King said that while she expected to continue to feel better, she did not. Two additional COVID tests, one in May and one in August, both came back negative, but King is still feeling the effects.
Six months after her initial diagnosis, King is still plagued by a chronic cough and exhaustion. She also battles insomnia, able only to sleep for about five hours at a time. Naps and resting help the exhaustion some, but she still battles body aches when she gets up.
“I move more slowly,” she said. “It’s definitely not where I used to be.”
But more distressing to King is the cognitive dysfunction that followed her bout with COVID.
“My memory is really bad,” she said. “I have trouble thinking of words and concepts. When I’m talking or typing, I will stop mid-sentence. I just hit a wall. It’s like the path from my brain to my mouth is so stuck that it just shuts down. It’s so frustrating for me, I know that I have the mental capability to get out what I’m trying to say.”
King had high praise for her primary care doctor, who initially diagnosed her with post viral syndrome, as well as chronic fatigue syndrome. She is currently seeing a physical therapist and occupational therapist weekly, and working with her insurance company to see a cognitive speech therapist.
All total, she is working with a team of nine therapists and doctors.
One of the most distressing parts of being a “long-haul COVID case” is that King will probably have to leave her job after this semester. The daughter of Ben and Peggy King of Hillsboro, she is currently a full-time adjunct professor at the Community College of Denver.
“Right now I can handle it because I have taught this course five times, and I’m able to handle the material, even if it takes me about three times longer than usual,” King said.
But as the cognitive degeneration continues, she fears she won’t be able to teach after this semester.
“It really breaks my heart because this is what I have wanted to do for so long,” she said.
Her continued symptoms keep King home most of the time, as even ordinary tasks seem monumental. A trip to the grocery store a few weeks ago took her two hours and left her feeling overwhelmed .
“When I finally got home, I just cried,” she said.
King added that her boyfriend is supportive in helping her with her struggles, often providing detailed lists or specific instructions about tasks.
A study from the United Kingdom found that about 10 percent of those who tested positive for COVID continue to face long-term effects, just like King.
“I’m so appreciative of everyone who has helped me and supported me,” King said, and that although little is known about the long-term battle, she hopes continued therapy will help to improve her skills.