Six months after COVID diagnosis, Susanne Murphy experiencing new side effects
June 16 - WORTHINGTON - After COVID-19-related restrictions eased, people tossed their face masks aside and continued their post-pandemic lives.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with many who have contracted the virus and continue to experience some of its debilitating side effects.
Earlier this year, The Globe shared stories of three local women struggling with a range of symptoms from fatigue to neurological issues. Susanne Murphy was the first to be introduced.
She was diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-December, has been in post-COVID syndrome for six months and has no idea if or when she will get back to her pre-COVID-19 health.
When an unusual heat wave hit Minnesota two weeks ago in early June, Murphy said her symptoms really got worse.
“I didn't expect it to get this bad,” she said, noting how simple tasks like getting from the car to the house sap her energy. Some days she can only lie on the couch - which is not at all conducive to her once busy work and community volunteering lifestyle.
"I still have exhaustion and a moderate headache," said Murphy. "And the nerve pain on my right side flares up without prompting. I can't figure out what's causing it."
The nerve pain wakes her up in the middle of the night and is so bad it moves her to tears.
"It was nerve pain like I've never experienced before. It lasted all day," she said of the recent pain in her right arm and hand. "I made myself do some things because the rest of my body wasn't hurting."
While Murphy said she has more good moments than bad, the bad moments are the worst. During these times, she tells herself that the pain will eventually go away.
"It comes, but it always works. I concentrate on making it work again," she said. "I never know how long it will take. When I'm exhausted, I think I'll rest 10 minutes and then be on the road for two to three hours. I don't hear a phone or anything unless Mocha barks. "
While Murphy has accompanied exhaustion since her battle with post-COVID syndrome began, the nerve pain is more recent. Early last week she had her first - and hopefully only - digestive problems.
On June 1, Murphy joined an online research group in a three-month study led by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Based on their symptoms and what they learned from other long distance riders, they suggested trying a gluten-free diet.
"They seem to think there is a link between gluten and the inflammatory system," said Murphy.
No easy answers
People living with post-COVID syndrome have a wide variety of symptoms and there is no quick pill or easy fix for them.
"Everything is new - there is no story," Murphy said. While she suffers from nerve pain, digestive problems, and fatigue, others have visual disturbances or have lost their sense of taste.
Murphy tested some essential oils and found that turmeric in capsule form was helpful for her nerve pain.
"Listen to your body, take a rest," she said. "You can't drink enough fluids. I drank a lot of Pedialyte and Gatorade because I don't want to get dehydrated."
Murphy received both her first and second vaccinations to fight off another bout of COVID-19 and did not respond to either dose. She hoped they would relieve some of her post-COVID symptoms, but they didn't.
After six months of health problems, Murphy admits that the exhaustion, brain fog, poor concentration, and pain have ruined her mind.
"I'm a person who likes to keep my word," she said. "One of the hardest things for me is when I say I'll do something and then have to cancel.
"My thought process is telling me that I want to do these things and my limitations won't allow me," she added.
Getting help was not easy - she learned to be independent when her husband suddenly died 22 years ago - but Murphy is so grateful for her understanding and supportive friends.
"Someone will come and water my flowers or offer to bring my purchases," she said. "I am blessed with a very supportive team."
After the first story about Murphy's struggle with post-COVID syndrome was published in February, she and another local long haul, Jolene Wieneke of Adrian, started a Facebook group for area residents living with the effects of the virus. Murphy hopes to get the group together for a face-to-face meeting this summer.
"When you read about other people's fights, it's bittersweet," she said. “Sometimes you read that they've been doing well for months and then, oh, something knocks them out.
"You're worried that's going to happen," she added. “On the other hand, you hear from someone who has had it for nine months and feels better and sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I know there are people who fight for every breath. I won't complain about it once - it's annoying. We all deal with it in our own way. "
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