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Vaccinated Boise woman now fighting 'long COVID'

April Zaleski received the vaccine in January 2021. She contracted COVID in July 2021. Three months later, she says, "I look healthy, but I don't feel like it."

BOISE, Idaho — From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, April Zaleski said she has been in for the long haul when it comes to safety measures. 

She wore a mask, kept socially distant, and received the Pfizer vaccine in Jan. 2021. But months later, she developed what's known as a "vaccine breakthrough" case when she became sick with COVID in July.

In October, her symptoms appear to be in for the long haul, too. 

Zaleski has what's become colloquially known as "long COVID." While she hasn't been contagious for three months, she's left fighting off a whole new fleet of lingering symptoms.

"I tried getting back to normal life, and the fatigue came back with vengeance," Zaleski said. "I have muscle pain, joint pain, my wrist constantly hurts for some reason. All of these things are new. I'm constantly dehydrated. There's just a whole host of random symptoms I didn't have before that I have almost daily. And they get worse the more activity I do. So, if I do a lot during the day, tomorrow they're gonna be a lot worse."

A recent Public Library of Science study found that 1 in 3 people with COVID will experience at least one lingering symptom. Lingering long COVID symptoms include - but are not limited to - shortness of breath, brain fog, chest and/or stomach pain, increased heart rate, and joint or muscle pain according to the CDC.

The CDC doesn't have a specifically outlined case definition for long COVID according to former St. Luke's President and CEO Dr. David Pate. However, Dr. Pate said, it is a real condition, and has been observed to often heavily impact younger people in their 30s and 40s.

Dr. Pate also said long COVID can complicate day-to-day tasks that are often taken for granted.

"If I vacuum for five minutes my heart rate is at 160, I start sweating and I have to take a break," Zaleski said. "It's just isolating. I feel like I'm going crazy most days and I know I'm not, but it's just hard, and it's hard for people to understand. Because I look fine, I look healthy, but I don't feel like it."

While this process has literally been a headache, Zaleski still advocates for preventative steps to stay safe and healthy.

"The vaccine is keeping people out of the hospital, and I'm a rare case. I don't want to scare people from getting vaccinated," she said. "I'm not sure why I was unlucky, but I really want other people with long COVID to know they're not alone."

St. Luke's has a clinic in the Treasure Valley designed to help treat long COVID symptoms. Zaleski said she is on the waiting list and is expected to be seen in November.

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