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, his life is turned upside down because of Lung COVID.
Stapleton fights extreme fatigue – he sleeps 10 to 12 hours a day. He is dealing with brain fog that makes him search for words and struggle to carry on conversations.
†[It’s] like when you watch a blurry TV, and it’s just helter skelter, nothing seems right,” he said. “Honestly, I haven’t felt well for a year.”
His joints are so sore and sore that the pain sometimes wakes him up in the middle of the night. Breathing is no longer as easy as it used to be. He takes medications to treat palpitations, dizziness, and anxiety.
“This has sucked the power, sucked the life out of me,” he said. “It’s hard to live with… I do not have a life.”
Before he got COVID-19, he was a utility company, but that’s a physically demanding job, and he just can’t do it now. He has been incapacitated for work for almost a whole year.
“LIt’s a shame,’ said Stapleton. ‘It is a real setback. Every day you go to bed, you get up, you live it. Every day nothing changes. Only the severity changes.”
Stapleton has worked with doctors, respiratory therapists and other health professionals at SSM Health to find mild remedies for his condition. Since January, he has been attending pulmonary rehabilitation at St. Mary’s Hospital twice a week.
“Tthere’s a lot of places that think this is made up, but everyone here is on board,” he said. “They’re really great. They have helped me a lot.”
During his rehabilitation sessions, Stapleton works with Mary Wichner, who has been a respiratory therapist for more than two decades.
“LIt’s hard to come up with a treatment plan for a lung COVID patient,” she said. “We’re just not sure what’s going to happen. So we take the patient day by day and what they feel and help them understand their body and what they need to do and steps to improve.”
For Stapleton, that often means spending time on the treadmill and elliptical.
“WWork with Bob on how he’s feeling that day and try to push him a little harder,” Wichner said. “Increased intensity, higher hill, higher speed, a little longer. …Tthe more we strengthen those muscles, the better he’ll be in the long run.”
That’s something Stapleton really wants, and that’s why he hasn’t given up hope.
†I’m only 56,” he said. “I’ve got a lot to do, and this isn’t part of it. …heyone day someone will make a magic pill and this will all disappear.”
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is conducting a survey of approximately 30,000 people to learn more about Lung COVID. It asks people who have tested positive or negative for COVID-19 to report their symptoms. DHS said this will help everyone better understand Lung COVID and support those who experience it.