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Almost one year after positive COVID test, Shenandoah Valley woman wins against “long COVID”

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 5:02 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - People known as “COVID long-haulers” experience COVID-19 symptoms longer than the average person.

Experts say it’s still being studied.

Julia Vessey, of Churchville, knows more about it than most. She’s lived it.

“We stayed home for six to eight weeks, and I just never got better,” Vessey said.

She tested positive shortly after her husband, but their symptoms were very different. He experienced the average COVID-19 symptoms: fever, cough, body aches, but she dealt with gastrointestinal issues, fatigue and hair loss.

She said her symptoms lingered long after her quarantine period.

“This was like, I can’t walk up the stairs, I can’t carry my son up the stairs, and he was a year old. He’s not very self-sufficient at that time,” Vessey.

As a yoga instructor, dance teacher and mom of two, it’s hard for her to stay in one place for too long. Trying to balance rest with physical activity, she got outside about a month later.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to go walk down into the field,’ and then I carried him up to the house, and I was in bed for three days after that,” she said. “It felt so good to be moving, to be outside in the sunshine, and then to have it have such a devastating effect... I think depression really kicked in because moving is the way that I make myself feel better.”

Her doctor told her to keep herself healthy and get rest. When it was her turn to get vaccinated, she knew she had to do it, and it had a surprising effect.

“I sat in my front yard and cried a lot out of relief, just because I felt like I was going to be safe. I had no idea it was going to actually help me feel better,” Vessey said.

A little at a time, Vessey said she started to feel better.

“Immediately, like the next day I was puttering around and I didn’t feel that immediate fatigue kick in, so I was puttering a little more the day after that, puttering a little more and so after I got my vaccine, I think I had two days where I needed to lay down,” she said.

Marshall Vogt, Division of Immunization Senior Epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health, said there’s still a lot of research going on regarding long haul symptoms and how vaccines affect those symptoms.

“For some reason, the COVID-19 virus causes changes in the body. We’re not entirely sure why. It could be your immune system reacting to it. It could be damage to actual tissues in your body and organs in your body that are caused by the virus that cause the symptoms to persist for a while,” Vogt said.

As for Vessey, she’s celebrating every milestone.

“This February of 2022 will be a year, and just recently I was able to run a solid mile and not feel like I needed to go lay down after,” she said. “Every day that I feel a little stronger, I feel so thankful for the science that was able to help me heal.”

Vogt said research shows people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are less likely to have long COVID symptoms if they experience a breakthrough case.

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