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Long-haul COVID no joke for Lampman woman and others who suffer

Cherilyn Gress was diagnosed with COVID-19 in April 2021, and has been battling the health impacts ever since.
From left, Cherilyn Gress and her three grandsons, Jackson, Rylin and Rexton.

LAMPMAN - Cherilyn Gress has been a school teacher for 32 years, but in April 2021 everything changed for her.

Gress contracted COVID that month. It started with a dry, scratchy throat and a cough; high fever and extreme body aches followed.

After a week to 10 days, Gress felt tingling all over her body, so she returned to the clinic in Estevan. They could not explain what was happening to Gress.

Everyone else had returned to work, and two weeks later the clinic felt Gress was virus free, so she returned to work at Spruce Ridge school where she was teaching grade three.

After teaching for a few days, Gress was extremely fatigued and nearly passed out at work. This is when she found out she had trouble with her blood and had high blood pressure.

This was the first time that Gress heard the term long hauler. It was May 2021, and it was the last time Gress has been able to work.

Her neurological system continued to worsen over the next five months. This increased after each vaccine she received.

Gress’ symptoms included dizziness, brain fog, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle pain, weakness and body tingles. Even her speech and holding a conversation were difficult for her to do.

She has memory gaps, especially from a year ago, and only goes for short drives, as it all tires her out.

Once again, Gress got COVID in the summer of 2022, which set her back to square one.

Her journey has taken her to many places looking for help, beginning with therapy locally and then going to Regina and Calgary.

Each time she would try different therapies, diets, supplements and brain games, and each time they were not sure if they would help.

Gress was finally recommended to a clinic in Atlanta called the Georgia Chiropractic Neurology Center.

In September 2022, nearly 18 months into the long haul, she went to the clinic where she was told it is called a chemical concussion caused by the virus.

Gress said she has damage to the frontal and temporal lobes of her brain, and the clinic focuses on therapy that will target the area.

At the clinic Gress has her brain pushed with different strategies that trigger the mind, but also passive therapy to help calm and reset.

“It is like a very complex GPS system that keeps trying to recalculate a route,” she said.

The recalculating is extremely hard on Gress.

Her sympathetic nervous system is stuck and some of the therapies will help wake up the parasympathetic system so that she can find balance again.

“I need to get out of fight or flight and get back some rest and digest,” said Gress.

“I feel like I have been drinking for almost two years, some days only having a few beers and others a bottle of tequila,” she added later.

While at the clinic she does therapy all day for the 10-11 days she is there. It is helpful, but she says it is exhausting. When she returns home, she needs a week to rest and get her bearings.

Gress returned to the clinic in February for another 10 days.

Some days she feels like her old self and the clinic assured her they will be able to get her close to herself once again.

“I miss the old me,” she said.

The clinic hopes by working hard to get Gress able to cope with daily activities and hopefully have more days in which the old Cherilyn sticks around and lasts longer than a few hours. The clinic may not be able to fully help Gress recover, but they feel that they could come very close to this.

With her return from the clinic this time, her speech has improved. She has homework to do and the clinic does call in to check up on her progress.

Although the treatments are expensive, they are helping Gress, and she hopes to return to Georgia in the fall for another session.

Gress had one huge accomplishment last December, when she had a small part in the Lampman Community Theatre’s production. Although she did not have any lines, Gress felt great to be a part of something she loves.

The rules for pacing are similar to spoon therapy. There is only so much physical, emotional and mental work she can do every day. It is a crazy balancing act for her. Each day that Gress feels stronger, the more she will be able to accomplish.

“It is hard for me, but very rewarding with every step forward that I take,” said Gress.

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