CLARKSTON, Mich. – Chris Long is a father of three, and at 54 years old he was active and a mostly healthy, decades-long cancer survivor.
However, when he was exposed to COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic, there was no predicting how his life would change.
“I am resolved to the fact that from this point, going forward from Jan. 1, 2021, this is going to be my long-term future,” he said.
After going in for surgery last February when doctors didn’t have a word for the illness, Long began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. The 6-foot-7-inch-tall former basketball player could not stand or stay conscious.
“I had literally crawled out of my apartment door to the lobby door and called 911, stuck my arm out the door and that’s where they found me,” he said.
Long woke up in the hospital three days later and stayed for another two days. When symptoms returned in April, he went back. In fact, he has been in the hospital nine times since his first diagnosis.
Long has suffered weeks of endless pneumonia, fever and sepsis. As a cancer survivor, he had preexisting conditions such as a few blood clots in his lungs and legs and an irregular heartbeat, which was addressed several years ago. His arrhythmia has since returned, making normal life a challenge.
“The longer-term stuff like going out to help shovel the sidewalk or taking the trash down to the dumpster at the other end of the parking lot. Just those short physical bursts of activity completely exhausts me,” he said.
Long is a victim of something doctors are beginning to understand but have seen for months, calling it the long haul.
According to one study, one in 11 Americans will be readmitted to a hospital after contracting COVID. Another study from the University of Michigan shows 15% of COVID patients needed to be readmitted within two months of being released.
“I want to be able to get back on my bike,” Long said. “I want to be able to drive, walk down the road and I want to be independent. And the last thing I want to do is go back to a hospital. I’ve definitely spent enough time there.”
Long was studying for his doctorate and hoping to become a teacher. He said those plans have been put on hold.