Just a few months before COVID-19 vaccines were available, 30-year-old Grace Troupe caught the virus in 2020. She had a relatively mild case, with a few days of fatigue and cold-like symptoms. Still, Grace has never fully recovered.
“From that point on, I ended up having severe brain fog,” Grace said. “I had trouble reading books to my small children, and difficulties driving. I had a lot of fatigue. I needed to take one nap a day and sleep 12 hours at night, sometimes two naps a day.”
The mother of two and instructional designer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was so impacted by her symptoms that she considered quitting her part-time job.
“It just blew up my life,” Grace said. “It’s not what I thought my life would be like. I don’t think anyone prepares themselves for a disabling event.”
The long COVID statistics are sobering. To date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates more than 90,000 Nebraskans are currently experiencing long COVID symptoms, and roughly 20,000 have experienced significant activity limitations. The constellation of symptoms typically associated with the condition includes extreme fatigue, heart palpitations, “brain fog” and joint pain, to name just a few. Initially, Grace didn’t know what to make of her symptoms. The term “long COVID” wasn’t in the everyday vernacular yet. Then, last spring, her primary doctor referred her to the specialized post-COVID clinic at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals. Once she started Madonna’s program, Grace began to feel hopeful.
“It was just validating to hear that my symptoms are real,” she said. “There are words to put around them, and there are professionals to help me understand them. Madonna is a place where I find people who will try the latest and best treatments.”
Once or twice a week for three months, Grace diligently worked in occupational, speech and physical therapies at Madonna. At home, she’d find additional research online about long COVID and take it back to her Madonna care team to discuss.
“If I brought something in, my Madonna physician was always receptive to learning more or investigating it,” Grace said. “I’m not able to find that at other places. A lot of the breakthroughs I’ve made have been by working with the Madonna clinic.”
These days, Grace has significantly improved and she continues to manage her symptoms.
“I was able to make enough progress with the treatments [at Madonna] that I’m still working,” she said. “Now, I don’t need to nap anymore and I feel confident that I can drive. I don’t spend all my time looking for things. I can read again. These are all meaningful things.”