CERRO GORDO, Ill. (WCIA) — The CDC reports that the Household Pulse Survey shows that of 40% of adults in the United States that had a COVID-19 infection, one in five are experiencing “long covid.” That equals 19% of those infected with COVID are still experiencing symptoms.

Teachers were some of the front-line workers during the pandemic. Many were exposed. One valued teacher at Cerro Gordo Schools has long COVID and is still teaching High School Literature full time. She just dealt with another COVID infection.

In 2019, Dr. Vicky Gilpin worked full-time as a Literature teacher, drama, and play instructor for Cerro Gordo Schools. She also taught three courses each semester in the evening at Millikin University, took several graduate classes on teaching poetry through Harvard, was a Teaching Fellow for an online graduate class, directed three school plays, sponsored five school organizations, and was thinking about adding another graduate degree to her belt. Then, by November 2019, her doctor advised her to slow down. “My doctor was indicating that I needed to slow down or my body would choose to slow down for me. However, that was just exhaustion from getting up at 3:30 a.m., working 14 hours a day, and getting older, all to be expected,” said Gilpin.

She says now; she truly knows what actual fatigue is, “Now only working my single job and worrying about my aging abilities to do that, I know what true fatigue is: October 1st will be my two-year anniversary of constant symptoms of Long COVID. I had a mild case of COVID and didn’t even have to go to the hospital. Now, breathing, chest pain, lack of stamina, fatigue, and brain fog are all issues.”

The fatigue is so severe she said, “If left to my own devices, I’ll sleep between 16-19 hours every day. Every few hours, I need to rest. Getting up later doesn’t help, and getting more sleep doesn’t help, as I feel like I am in a coma part-time, as it is.”

She’s been to several specialists and her primary doctor. “I have been to my doctor, neurologists, neuropsychologists, speech therapy, physical therapy, and hospitals hosting several studies. Already dealing with fibromyalgia, I knew having a chronic illness, or invisible illness, was awful. (no stars, would not recommend) but the relief when various medical experts would say, ‘yes, we’re seeing this with Long COVID; we have to treat it like traumatic brain injury to me rather than express disbelief, well, that has had me in tears more than once.”

Since researchers are still attacking how to treat long COVID and its plethora of symptoms, much remains unknown. “They are not yet at a place where the actual “long COVID can be attacked, as it damages people in different ways, many of which can’t be seen on tests; they have to currently treat the symptoms, many of which can’t be easily treated, ” said Gilpin.

As for trying to teach, long COVID has caused quite a few issues. “The pain and other symptoms are miserable, but the overwhelming fatigue and brain fog are worse: pretty much, my intellect is the foundation of my job, so losing my vocabulary and other cognitive abilities halfway through each day is horrifying and embarrassing. However, I have to remember I am lucky I still have a job, even if I am not working at my prior abilities.”

There is a psychological toll as well, “Having to explain that just pushing through can do damage that lasts for days due to physical and mental “exertion fatigue” sounds made up. Worse, now, is that I just got over a new bout of Covid and all I can think is if this is going to make the long Covid even worse?” questioned Gilpin.

Women are more likely to have long COVID, as are Hispanic adults versus non-Hispanic white and black adults. Bisexual and transgender adults are also more likely to have long COVID than any other gender identity, the CDC reports.

The CDC reports no test to determine if someone has Long COVID. They are working to determine what causes it and how to best treat symptoms. The American Disability Act now classifies Long COVID as a disability.