This 35-year-old dad almost died from COVID-19. A year later, he’s walking but battling long-hauler mental health symptoms.

Michael Goldsmith family
Michael Goldsmith and his family in December 2020. Abbie Sophia Photography
  • Michael Goldsmith’s COVID symptoms began March 11, 2020, the same day a pandemic was declared.
  • He spent 22 days in a medically induced coma as his family fought for access to experimental drugs.
  • He “miraculously” survived, and is physically strong but dealing with long-hauler mental symptoms.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Michael Goldsmith doesn’t remember much of last March.

The now 35-year-old IT professional and dad in Bergenfield, New Jersey, spent the latter part of the month, as well as the beginning of April – 22 days in total – in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator due to a severe case of COVID-19.

Doctors had tried a variety of therapies, including antimalarials and antibiotics, but all failed. His family fought for access to the drug remdesivir, which they feared was his only chance of survival. “We were at the ‘what the hell?’ point,” Goldsmith’s wife, Elana, previously told Insider. “We didn’t have anything to lose.” But they were denied the drug due to what Goldsmith’s father-in-law called a “bureaucratic glitch.”

And yet, for reasons unknown to doctors, and called a “miracle” by his family, Goldsmith survived.

March 11, 2021 marks the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus being declared a pandemic – and the one-year anniversary of Goldsmith’s initial COVID-19 symptoms: a fever and dizziness.

“I did not anticipate when I left the hospital that I and the world would still be dealing with COVID one year later,” Goldsmith told Insider over email this week. “But I know now that we are moving in the right direction and making amazing medical advances to get the world back on track.”

Michael Goldsmith running 5K
Michael Goldsmith and his friend and physical therapist, Noah Wasserman, after running a Thanksgiving Day 5K. Elana Goldsmith

Goldsmith feels physical strong, but is dealing with some mental health complications

When Goldsmith returned from the hospital in April 2020, he couldn’t walk or climb stairs on his own. Now, he no longer needs occupational and physical therapy, his chest X-rays are clear, and he even ran his first-ever 5K on Thanksgiving. “I feel stronger than ever,” he told Insider.

His mental health, however, is more precarious. “I am experiencing a lot of anxiety, PTSD, and depression that didn’t really surface until I had been home four or five months after the illness,” he said. He’s managing it, though, through therapy.

Research has shown that COVID-19 can have wide-ranging and long-lasting cognitive and neurological consequences, including head and muscle aches, confusion and dizziness, seizures and strokes, and brain swelling and delirium. Survivors have also reported terrifying hallucinations, coordination issues, and memory lapses.

People who’ve spent time in intensive care, like Goldsmith can also be prone to post-ICU syndrome and medical PTSD. These emotional effects often surprise patients, Dr. Craig Weinert, a pulmonologist and critical-care physician at the University of Minnesota who’s studied mental health outcomes of ICU patients, previously told Business Insider.

“I thought I just had a lung disease,” he said patients often think. “Why am I crying? Why can barely walk even though I’m not short of breath? Why can’t I think straight for more than five minutes?”

Researchers are still searching for the answer.

Goldsmith received a cochlear implant for severe hearing loss

When Goldsmith was recovering in the hospital, he answered phone calls from medical staff – but couldn’t hear them. Hospital staff replaced the phone several times before realizing Goldsmith had lost his hearing in his left ear, the American Cochlear Implant Alliance reported.

Permanent hearing loss seems to be an unusual complication of COVID-19, but some other cases have been reported.

After lots of research, appointments with audiologists and other experts, and social media discussions with people who have cochlear implants, Goldsmith NYU hospital’s first COVID-19 patient to receive a cochlear implant in September.

Now, he has 70% of his hearing back in that ear.

The experience made Goldsmith ‘realize that all people are inherently good’

Goldsmith says learning he’d been on the brink of death has made him treasure his wife and kids even more. “Our family is the most important thing in my life,” he said. He’s grateful the pandemic has given him more time to cherish simple moments with them, like walks around the neighborhood and game nights.

The experience also made Goldsmith realize “that all people are inherently good.” He slowly learned after his discharge how many people had rallied behind him.

“It is still hard to fathom the fight that people fought on my behalf as well as the other COVID patients who had “fallen through the cracks.”

His family members, for example, filed a “physician’s petition” calling on President Donald Trump to help Goldsmith and other severely ill patients access remdesivir, and nurses held his hand when Elana was only allowed to visit virtually. “Strangers reached out to help find me experimental medications when my doctors were unable to, people all over the world prayed for my recovery,” Goldsmith added.

“When I learned about these things from Elana after I came home,” he said, “I was simply overcome with the abundance of kindness people bestowed on me and my family, and I will be forever grateful for that.”

Michael Goldsmith returns home
Michael Goldsmith returning home from the hospital in April 2020. Abbie Sophia

Goldsmith is in several studies as a long hauler

When Goldsmith’s recovery began, the world’s battle against the pandemic was just beginning. Hospitals lacked PPE, the FDA was still six months away from approving a drug to treat the illness, millions of Americans had yet to get sick, and hundreds of thousands of deaths had yet to occur.

“When I was admitted to the medical ICU, I was the youngest person inside,” Goldsmith said, “but by the time I left, I unfortunately was not.”

And still, the pandemic isn’t over. Like other “long haulers,” Goldsmith’s own fight against COVID’s long-term effects continues. And many questions remain, like why people like him – young, healthy, with no underlying conditions – almost died, while others barely registered a cough.

To help answer that and other questions, Goldsmith is enrolled in several studies. “I want to answer the ‘why me?’ question not to wallow in it, but to help future COVID patients and to inform doctors and scientists so we can all be better prepared for another outbreak.”