MADISON (WKOW) — When Bob Stapleton contracted COVID-19 in May 2021, he thought he would be fine because he was vaccinated. Almost a year later, her life was turned upside down due to Long COVID.
Stapleton struggles with extreme fatigue – he sleeps 10-12 hours a day. He faces a brain fog that leaves him searching for words and struggling to carry on conversations.
“[It’s] like when you’re watching fuzzy TV, and it’s just a mess, nothing seems right,” he said. “Honestly, I haven’t felt well in a year.
His joints are so sore and sore that the pain sometimes wakes him up in the middle of the night. Breathing isn’t as easy as it used to be. He takes medication to treat heart palpitations, dizziness and anxiety.
“It sucked the strength out of me, sucked the life out of me,” he said. “It’s hard to live… I have no life.”
Before he got COVID-19, he was a utility worker, but it’s a physically demanding job, and he just can’t do it right now. He has been off work for almost a year.
“I“It’s a disappointment,” Stapleton said. “It’s a direct disappointment. Every day you go to bed, you get up, you live it. Every day nothing changes. Only gravity changes.”
Stapleton worked with doctors, respiratory therapists and other healthcare workers at SSM Health to find gentle remedies for her condition. Since January, he has been undergoing pulmonary detox at St. Mary’s Hospital twice a week.
“Tthere are a lot of places that think it’s made up, but everyone here agrees,” he said. “They’re really awesome. They helped me a lot.”
During her rehab sessions, Stapleton works with Mary Wichner, who has been a respiratory therapist for more than two decades.
“IIt’s hard to come up with a treatment plan for a patient with Long COVID,” she said. “We just don’t know for sure what’s going to happen. So we take the patient on a day-to-day basis and what they’re feeling and help them understand their body and what they need to do and the steps to take to improve.”
For Stapleton, that means spending time on the treadmill and elliptical frequently.
“WWe’re working with Bob on how he’s feeling that day and trying to push him a little bit harder,” Wichner said. “Increased intensity, higher grade, faster speed, a little longer. …TThe more we strengthen those muscles, the better off he will be in the long run.”
It’s something Stapleton desperately wants and that’s why he hasn’t given up hope.
“I’m only 56,” he said. “I have a lot left to live, and that’s not part of it. …HLuckily, one day someone will make a magic pill and it will all go away.”
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is conducting a survey of approximately 30,000 people to learn more about Long COVID. It asks people who test positive or negative for COVID-19 to report their symptoms. DHS said this will help everyone better understand Long COVID and support those affected.