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The Meaning of Care Magazine
Long COVID Patient Relies on His Faith and Methodist DoctorPublished: Aug. 24, 2021
The following is one of several profiles featuring Methodist patients who are living with the effects of long COVID – a range of health challenges that some people experience after the acute phase of COVID-19 illness. Read more long COVID patient stories:
- ‘This Story Needs To Be Told’: Omaha Woman Opens Up About Long COVID Struggles in Hopes of Helping Others
- Her Port in the Storm: Patient Leans on Methodist Doctor Through Unknowns of Long COVID
- ‘Such a Fighter’: Iowa Mom Determined To Regain Her ‘Normal’ Life After COVID-19
Faith is a fundamental part of Larry Baideme’s life.
Larry and his wife, Mickie, are active members of Life.Church Omaha, looking for opportunities to serve others, taking part in group discussions and, of course, attending worship services.
All that changed in December when the Baidemes each were infected with COVID-19. Mickie started to recover but was struck with COVID-19 pneumonia before fully recovering. But Larry, 70, continues to struggle with the fallout of his illness – an array of unusual and sometimes unpredictable symptoms that medical experts are classifying as long COVID.
And while his physical attendance at church has been limited, his faith has only grown.
“That’s been the No. 1 thing,” Larry said. “My faith in Jesus Christ has been the foundation. It doesn’t matter where you’re at or who you are, you know that He’s in control, He will see you through, and He will do what His word tells us. You have to be focused on that. Without Him, you have nothing. One of my favorite verses that I’ve held close to me is Proverbs 18:10: ‘The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.’”
“The Saga Begins”
Dec. 8 is a date Larry won’t soon forget.
“The saga begins,” he said of the day he tested positive for COVID-19. “And I went downhill from there.”
Larry’s primary care provider, Shane Stephenson, MD, with Methodist Physicians Clinic, immediately went to work. With Larry quarantined, Dr. Stephenson monitored his condition using virtual appointments, Methodist My Care messaging and phone calls. Meanwhile, Mickie tended to her husband while working through more mild symptoms of her own.
“I was down pretty good for about three weeks,” Larry said. “But I started to feel a little bit better at the end of the year.”
He tried to return to his job in the parts department at a car dealership, but he didn’t even make it four hours on his first day back. Larry was soon diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia, and Dr. Stephenson told him he wouldn’t be returning to work anytime soon. It was the first in a long list of challenges Larry would have in battling long COVID.
“I’ve been fighting it ever since,” he said. “When they call it a long haul, they aren’t kidding.”
In the months since the acute phase of COVID-19, Larry has dealt with a range of symptoms that have seemed to feed off of one another. The pneumonia weakened his lung function, and he developed sleeping issues and restless leg syndrome. Those issues compounded the fatigue he was already experiencing during recovery, which led to a less active lifestyle and weight gain. Larry then developed diabetes and blood pressure issues. And, like so many long COVID patients, he’s been living with brain fog, loss of taste and smell, anxiety and depression.
“It’s just been one thing after another, struggling day by day,” Larry said in the spring. “One day is good, and the next day, it’s like I hit a wall. I end up sleeping every day for at least one to two hours during the afternoon just to try to get some energy back. It’s been really tough.”
Larry is most frustrated by how his symptoms, especially the fatigue, have changed his life. He envisioned his time this spring being filled by going to work and church, walking his dog, tending a garden, and completing projects around the house. Instead, most things were a struggle. And the less he did, the less he felt motivated to do.
“The spirit is willing, but the body is weak,” he said. “You just have a lack of drive. You start getting into that whole thing, and it’s pretty tough to get out of.”
It’s a problem Dr. Stephenson has seen in many of his long COVID patients.
“It’s not a recovery that’s like, ‘Just work harder,’” he said. “If they exert themselves too hard, the patients with profound fatigue are usually wiped out for days. It often exacerbates their symptoms.”
Light at the End of the Tunnel
For all his challenges, Larry was making progress in the spring. Led by Dr. Stephenson, Larry’s care team included a pulmonologist, cardiologist and neurologist. Dr. Stephenson prescribed a sleep medication that helped Larry get more rest, and a respiratory therapist gave him medication to improve his breathing – which in turn helped him try to be more active.
That activity included attending church again.
“Before, you could only look at it every Sunday streaming, but you want to be a part of worship, be a part of it with your brothers and sisters,” he said. “Being back in the church again like we’ve been doing has been a tremendous uplifting thing.”
Larry knew his recovery wasn’t over, but his optimism was growing. He began to think of returning to the workforce with a less strenuous part-time job as the summer began.
That’s when long COVID “reared its ugly head” once more, he said, causing rheumatoid arthritis in his knees and at the site of a decade-old broken pelvis injury. Larry and his care team believe it was the result of his body being weakened by inactivity and perhaps a byproduct of COVID-19 itself.
It was another setback for Larry. And although he faced a month or more of physical therapy, his outlook had shifted from months before.
Now a few weeks into therapy, he’s again eying a return to the workforce – not only to build activity into his routine, but also to help with the financial toll of long COVID.
“I think after this physical therapy, I do feel more optimistic about getting better finally,” he said. “The light at the end of the tunnel was not a locomotive.”
A Story of Hope and Inspiration
Dr. Stephenson said Larry’s experience – a mix of physical, mental and even financial challenges – can shine a light on the struggles that so many long COVID patients face.
“These symptoms aren’t severe enough to land somebody in the hospital but are severe enough to affect their day-to-day quality of life,” he said. “I think it’s probably not talked about as much, because, quite frankly, they don’t die. They’re not in the hospital. They’re not on death’s door, and they appear functional. By all appearances, they seem pretty normal, but symptomwise, some of them are quite disabled.”
Larry’s story can also provide hope and inspiration to others.
Dr. Stephenson wants long COVID patients to know they’re not alone in what they’re facing – and that people like Larry are overcoming it and reclaiming their lives.
And Larry wants them to know how he found strength and support in the most difficult of times.
“I’ve never felt closer to God than how I have during this pandemic. That’s been the anchor,” he said. “And with Dr. Stephenson, I really believe God has latched me to him. He has provided Dr. Stephenson with the knowledge, care and expertise to take care of me.”
Photos and video by Daniel Johnson