After dealing with COVID-19, Springfield teachers find ‘blessings’ in life

Author: Steven Spearie – State Journal Register

Date: November 25, 2020

Corina Ousley said it was “a blessing” how she and her family got through bouts with COVID-19 this summer.

There were for Ousley, a fifth-grade teacher at Dubois Elementary School, days of agony, including chronic fatigue and a precarious loss of taste and smell.

Ousley lost a second cousin, with whom she was close, to COVID-19.

The experience helped re-orient Ousley, who is more intentional in her relationships with her husband, James, a security officer at HSHS St. John’s Hospital, and her children.

It also set her toward building a stronger relationship with her father.

“This is definitely a time,” Ousley said, “for me to give more thanks to God for sparing my life, my family’s life and just recognizing that every day you live is a precious moment.”

Ousley and others who suffered the effects of COVID-19, like Gina Ryan Romer of Springfield, are celebrating Thanksgiving in different ways this year.

Absent are houses full of people in Ousley’s case, they would rent out a church hall to accommodate crowds and far-flung travel. Both will celebrate the day with only immediate family.

Gratitude will be on the plate.

“I am so thankful, obviously for my family and my friends and my students and my job,” said Romer, who oversees the School Within A School, a program for students with behavioral problems or anxiety, at Grant Middle School. “It’s definitely going to be bittersweet, though, because of the coronavirus. While it makes me more thankful and appreciative for these things in my life, it’s keeping me from seeing some of those people and family in my life.”

Different symptoms Romer experienced, including severe fatigue, headaches, body aches, pain behind my eyes, a slight cough and loss of taste and smell, lasted about six weeks. Romer said she is still dealing with brain fog three months after being diagnosed.

Romer admitted she was upset and scared and resorted to making a video of herself describing her symptoms.

“I was thinking, what if I do end up in the hospital and I don’t come back out?” Romer said. “It was scary for awhile.”

For people to scoff at or downplay COVID-19 is reckless, Romer said. A friend of Romer’s is in the hospital on a ventilator with COVID-19. Another good friend lost her brother to the virus.

Several weeks ago when Romer and her husband, Mike, were eating at a restaurant, they both put their masks on when a server approached their table.

“She said, ‘You don’t need to put your masks on. It’s OK. I’m not worried about it. It’s nothing more than a cold anyway,’” Romer recalled. “I said, ‘actually, it is more than a cold for some people and I’ve had it.’ You could tell she was taken back.

“It might be just a cold for you, but if you contaminate someone else, it could be way worse than a cold for them.”

Like Romer, Ousley said multiple members of her household had the virus, although she said her husband and 11-year-old daughter’s cases were much milder.

Ousley also had MRSA, a staph infection, at the time she tested positive for COVID-19. That was about a week before school started, said Ousley, who had already signed up to teach students remotely.

“It wasn’t that, oh, we’re above this, we can’t catch it,” Ousley said. “We’re the type of people, pre-COVID, who were adamant about keeping things clean. I’ve always driven around with sanitizer, wipes, tissues and paper towels in the car. We did that anyway because I’m a mom.”

Ousley said the loss of her 52-year-old cousin in the Metro East area from COVID-19, just before she was diagnosed, was difficult.

Ousley called him “the optimistic one in the crowd, a happy, upbeat person.” Some 48 hours after he was released from the hospital, Ousley said her cousin was gone.

“People who say it’s a hoax will never truly understand the pain and the hurt that comes from not only having it and having to derail your own plans, but losing a family member,” Ousley said. “I’ll never get my cousin back.”

Ousley said she has always taught her students to live with a purpose, to plan, but ultimately to adapt and to be resilient in life.

She is following that same path.

“We all say we’re grateful for health and strength and life and family, but you see the numbers of people not coming home to their families because they were impacted by this very same virus that could have taken your life,” Ousley said. “It makes you grateful for having a purpose in life, understanding who you are and understanding that your life impacts not just the people you live with, but your sphere of influence in the community.

“Every moment I have an opportunity to wake up and be with my children and my husband and my family members and even teaching my students, it is an absolute pure blessing.”

Contact Steven Spearie at 622-1788, or