GLEN COVE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — When you hear the expression “long haulers,” truck drivers may come to mind.
But now it’s also used to describe people experiencing some long-term effects of COVID-19.
CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff recently met a Long Island man who fits into both categories — a truck driver with debilitating long-haul coronavirus effects.
Ron Panzok of Fresh Meadows still walks with a limp and feels pins and needles with every step. But he’s a long way from March, when the healthy 66-year-old truck driver was suddenly on life support.
“I remember the ride to the hospital and that’s it. After this, I blacked [out]. I woke up after two months,” Panzok said.
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As one of the area’s first victims, his family had to invent ways to communicate with him while he lingered in isolation.
“We would make three-way calls and just have everybody sing to him and talk to him, just to have him keep hearing everybody’s voice, hoping it would make an impact,” wife Bonnie Panzok said.
That, along with one of the first doses of convalescent plasma helped, but there would be hard work ahead.
“You feel very bad. You feel very depressed. You cannot move. You cannot nothing. You cannot walk. You cannot control your body. It’s something hard to swallow,” Ron Panzok said.
But after grueling physical therapy, Ron was soon counseling other COVID-19 long haulers in rehab with him.
“And look at me now. I can walk. You have to fight. If you don’t fight, you can never win,” he said.
His rehab was completed at Glen Cove Hospital, which was just named the nation’s first geriatric center for excellence, a new concept in hospital centers that concentrate services on our increasingly aging population.
“To create a model not only for the Northwell Health System, but for the region, for the state, and for the country as a whole,” Rep. Tom Suozzi said.
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The Panzok family said Ron’s recovery has been about treating his body and soul.
“Once you people start to get down and depressed then they don’t have hope. They can’t do what they need to do to get better,” Bonnie Panzok said.
Ron suffered long-term nerve damage in his feet, but his arms have no problem hugging new twin grandchildren.