An Idaho man who ‘thought the virus would disappear’ after the election now has ‘long COVID’ and says he’ll need oxygen for the rest of his life

St Luke's Boise Medical Center
St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center, where Paul Russell was treated. Google Maps

A man who thought the coronavirus would disappear was hospitalized for more than two weeks with the virus and said he would now need medical oxygen for the rest of his life.

Paul Russell, 63, from Boise, Idaho, told the Idaho Statesman’s Audrey Dutton: “Before I came down with the virus, I was one of those jackasses who thought the virus would disappear the day after the election. I was one of those conspiracy theorists.”

But he was in the hospital with the coronavirus a week after the election on November 3, Dutton reported.

-Audrey Dutton (@audreydutton) March 9, 2021

Russell, a long-haul trucker, said he had been returning to Boise when he started to feel unwell. He quarantined himself at home, in a travel trailer he owns with his wife.

His COVID-19 test came back positive. A few days later he felt so unwell that he asked his wife to bring him to the hospital, where he received intensive care.

A nurse at one point put him on the phone with his wife. Russell said she told him how much she loved him, “because she didn’t know if I was gonna make it through the night.”

In total, he spent 16 days in St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center, he told the Statesman. He also enrolled in a clinical trial to test the effects of an immunosuppressive drug on the virus.

He was able to go home on Thanksgiving Day and have dinner with his family. “It was the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had,” he said.

But Russell said he was still living with the effects of the virus. He said he couldn’t work anymore.

“I’m gonna be on oxygen the rest of my life, according to my doctor,” he said.

“Life is no good right now,” Russell added. “Except for one thing: I’m alive.”

Some people who were infected with the coronavirus continue to experience symptoms for weeks and months afterward, experiencing what’s been called “long COVID.” Symptoms can include fatigue, dizziness, pain, and problems with memory.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some people can experience “more serious long-term complications” including inflammation of the heart muscle and depression and anxiety.

One study, published in January, of about 1,700 people who had been hospitalized with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, found that 76% reported having at least one symptom six months after they first got sick.

This can put additional pressure on healthcare systems already overwhelmed by treating people with COVID-19.