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While COVID spikes, two Arizonans still fight long COVID-19

Posted at 10:14 PM, Nov 21, 2021

Two Arizonans, separated in age by decades, are both dealing with the life-changing symptoms of long COVID-19.

Vikki Jones, 55, who lives in Prescott, contracted COVID-19 during the summer of 2020. Before she contracted the virus, fitness and sport was Jones' life. She worked as a high-intensity fitness instructor who ran marathons and said she went running multiple times per week. In her younger days, she was an international-competing professional pentathlete for the United States.

After she was diagnosed with COVID-19, Jones is physically a different person, unable to work or work out, and focuses more on breathing than working out.

"Long COVID has left me unable to exercise because of the issues of heart rate and recovery and incredible fatigue," said Jones, who lost all her business clients due to her symptoms from COVID-19. "I’m not able to work."

Jones said she suffers from what she calls "relapses," days when the original symptoms are strong when she is too tired to get up from bed or off the couch. She's often suffering from "brain fog" too, from forgetting a word or a thought to wondering how she traveled from home to the grocery store.

"I’ve been seen down at the supermarket in my pajamas, no idea how I got there," said Jones.

Jones currently works as a breathing coach for others with long-haul COVID-19. She says it's important for her and her clients to keep daily journals, recording the things that may trigger a "relapse of symptoms" or activities that work for the individual person.

"I’m very grateful that I can coach some people with long COVID because I’ve become a breathwork coach," said Jones.

In the Valley, 17-year-old Lydia Pastore has been living with long-haul COVID-19 for 21 months. Lydia suffered from chronic fatigue and body aches, forcing her to stay home. She's been slowly getting better over time with the help of physical therapy and a countless number of treatments.

"I had hot flashes, I was dizzy, and I was in bed for nearly six weeks," said Pastore, who said her doctors believe she contracted COVID-19 in February of 2020 when she was only 16.

"I take walks every night with my mom. I was unable to do that when I was sick without being winded," she said.

Pastore used her time at home to create a website and support service for teens like her also battling the symptoms of long-haul COVID-19 called ChronicConnections.org.

Pastore said she's heard from people in 17 different countries across the world.

"Despite the fact that we’re all facing difficult symptoms, we’re all facing a similar social stigma. As I continue to get better, I've tried to deepen my involvement as an advocate for people myself," said Pastore.

Long-haul COVID-19 is defined as symptoms lasting longer than six months since the initial infection. A recent study by Penn State College of Medicine estimates more than 100 million people will suffer from long COVID.

"For some people, it’s long-term neurological issues such as that long-term COVID brain, and other people are feeling those long-term breathing difficulties. So, it’s just a little bit different in everybody," said Dr. David Engelthaler, an epidemiologist with TGEN in Flagstaff.

Both long-haulers, Jones and Pastore are still recovering from their own battle with COVID-19, hoping to help others while continuing to heal themselves.