St. Louis woman shares story of fighting distant COVID twice to encourage others to feel isolated

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) — High school teacher Ashley Bailey finds her daily routine is not a walk in the park as she struggles with her second period of ‘long-haul’ COVID.

Sitting on a bench in Crestwood’s Whitecliff Park, she catches her breath. She suffers from shortness of breath, muscle and joint pains, fatigue, and brain fog.

“I couldn’t come up with the word cemetery [last semester] and I explain to my students that you know the place where the bodies are buried,” Bailey explained. “They’re like you mean the graveyard, and I’m like, oh yeah.”

Bailey, 46, was first diagnosed with COVID in April 2020, at the start of the pandemic when no vaccine existed and testing was not widely available.

“Many times I say that I have Covid for a long time, they ask if I am contagious,” Bailey shared. “They are afraid of what they will get. I’m not contagious.”

Since then, she has contracted the virus three more times.

“When I went to the doctor, all these scans and tests, they said my lungs are fine, but why can’t I breathe? Everything became clear, but there was no scientific, medical evidence of why I feel this way.

According to the CDC1 in 13 U.S. adults (7.5%) have “long-term COVID symptoms,” defined as symptoms lasting three months or more after first exposure to the virus that they did not have prior to exposure to COVID-19. Women are more likely than men to currently have long-term COVID (9.4% vs 5.5%).

Bailey said her school, staff and students were supportive of her, but also said she felt bad about reducing her responsibilities.

“As a teacher, you have to do extra things, right? For example, watch the corridor, and I couldn’t do that,” Bailey said.

The constant pain forced Bailey to quit his part-time job. Her extra cash flow stopped, and then the doctor’s bills came in. Now the veteran teacher is thinking about disability.

“I want to work,” Bailey shared. “I want to work and do something, trust me, I’m not one of those who sit around doing nothing.”

To recuperate, Bailey visits the Center for Advanced Medicine at the University of Washington. There she receives professional, speech therapy and physiotherapy.

“People with ‘long-term COVID’ don’t want to be isolated, they don’t want to use a wheelchair. I want to get back to my usual fun and things we don’t make up,” Bailey said.

Bailey loves dogs. She helps raise a few furry friends and they keep her going. She thanks them for part of her recovery.

She said she is grateful to friends and family who are pushing her to go public. Literally, if a task or errand requires too much energy, she sometimes catches herself pulling out her wheelchair to save energy.

“Everyone is way taller than you and they are talking and I feel left out,” Bailey explained. “People will lean in to try and include me in the conversation, it’s very weird.”

Every trial she faces is a humiliating lesson to never take life for granted.

“I’m not that rough. I have a job. It’s hard to imagine a person who works two or three jobs to make ends meet,” Bailey explained. “If they get fired or if they miss their shifts, how will they pay your accounts?”

“It’s not all right, even if they look like that. Just show compassion,” Bailey shared. “That’s what it all comes down to.”