Monika's update 1: "I'm in a sort of limbo - neither completely ill nor completely healthy."

Monika's update 1: "I'm in a sort of limbo - neither completely ill nor completely healthy."

Over a year ago, Monika told us about her way to get through the ups and downs of her everyday life with Long COVID through photography. In this two-parter, she gives us an insight into her life since our first conversation.

In November 2022, we published our first interview with Monika Grossen. She has been battling Long COVID for almost two years and processes some of these experiences in her photography. Over a year after her first interview, Monika tells us how her life has changed since then.


Three times COVID-19, Long COVID since the first infection

In February 2022, the first symptoms of COVID-19 made their way into Monika's life. However, this challenge was to be overcome not once, but three times. She always experienced a rather mild course of acute infection, accompanied by the usual cold symptoms, but each time a specific symptom emerged that challenged her anew: the first episode brought with it an inexplicable tiredness that overwhelmed Monika for days. During the second acute infection, her sense of smell and taste were severely impaired. The third infection on Christmas 2023 brought with it shortness of breath, an oppressive feeling.

The acute phases were exhausting, but the real challenge began after the first infection, when Long COVID manifested itself. The diagnosis was made in May 2022. Initially, Monika could barely sit at a table for ten minutes. She describes these symptoms in a report by German TV channel ARD.


Ard Video

Monika describes her symptoms in German TV (Source: Tagesschau 24)


But today, thanks to perseverance and various therapies, Monika can work for four hours at a time again. Although the motor and cognitive exhaustion are still present, life has found more space in her everyday.


Attempts at therapy and eventual improvement

Monika's Long COVID journey was characterized by therapy attempts - from occupational therapy (pacing) and physiotherapy to alternative approaches such as acupuncture and massages. She also attended a course on stress management through mindfulness (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction - MBSR). A ganglion stellate blockade in Nottwil finally brought about a remarkable improvement in her quality of life. She describes how her "24/7 permanent haze" has disappeared since the procedure. What has remained, however, is premature exhaustion after activities. Therapies such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and regular medical massages are now her regular companions.

All therapies have helped in their own way. She always follows pacing as a basis and attributes her success in dealing with the illness to her psychotherapy. Currently, Monika is taking part in a study at the University of Zurich, which is investigating the effectiveness of Pycnogenol® on Long COVID. Monika was very impressed by the care she received from the study staff. The study is still recruiting participants.



On the way to acupuncture! (Source: LAROUXLA photoblog )


Monika describes her experience with the ganglion stellate blockade in detail

Monika underwent ganglion stellate blockade when the therapy was still very new to Long COVID patients. She was easily registered by her GP, was given an appointment within two weeks and her health insurance covered the costs.

The blockade was performed in two appointments on the left and right side. At the first appointment, she was first given an explanatory consultation about the therapy, then received an infusion and the puncture site on her neck was anaesthetized. She was given a sedative (Temesta/Lorazepam) to alleviate her severe nervousness.

During the treatment in the X-ray room, Monika had to lie very still for eight minutes while she received an anesthetic and electrical stimulation. She felt no pain, only pressure from the injection and then an unfamiliar sensation during the stimulation.

After the procedure, she spent half an hour in the recovery room. When she got up, she did not feel dizzy, was able to eat and drink immediately and could walk without any problems. However, she had to be picked up for safety reasons and was not allowed to travel home alone. The second appointment three days later was similar, but the procedure was performed on the other side.

For four weeks after the first appointment, Monika filled out a questionnaire in which she marked how her fatigue was progressing. From week three, she noticed how her constant haze slowly lifted and disappeared completely in week four. She explains. "A great deal of quality of life returned. What remained was premature exhaustion after activities."


Editor's note:

Ganglion stellate blockade has not yet been scientifically proven as a treatment method for Long COVID, but it has not been refuted either. Read more here.


Read part 2 here.