‘I’m going to give it 110%’: San Antonio man suffering from long-term COVID-19 symptoms after 68-day hospital stay working toward recovery

He’s a “COVID-19 long hauler” warning his community to take the virus seriously

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio family man Victor Roman almost lost his life to COVID-19 during a 68-day stay in the hospital. Now, nearly 10 months later, he’s still in rehab dealing with stroke-like symptoms, and he has a message for his community.

On June 26, 2020, Roman started to feel allergy symptoms, which turned into flu-like symptoms, which morphed into terrible headaches, shooting pains and even hallucinations.

“I was watching baseball, and I kept telling my wife, ‘Honey, stand back.’ I thought I was coaching the game,” Roman said.

His wife got him to the hospital, where he would stay for over two months, a large chunk of that time in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.

“They had to bring me back to life two times,” Roman said.

Roman feels lucky to be alive and back home with his wife and son, but almost 10 months after his COVID-19 diagnosis, he is still relearning basic skills, such as gripping things, lifting his arm above his head and balancing.

“Lately, I get winded a lot, and I get a lot of headaches, and I get real depressed, emotional. Now that I can’t support for my family, it’s hard,” Roman said.

Before he got sick, he was a hard-working truck driver who supported his family. Now, his wife is working extra hours, and his son came home from college to help the family.

Roman is having trouble getting unemployment benefits, and financial stress has remained high for him.

“I try to stay positive, but it’s slow progress,” he said. “Might be a year, might be two years, might be never.”

That anxiety about the unknown is common for other COVID-19 long-haulers, people dealing with severe symptoms months after they should have recovered from the virus.

“Fatigue is one of the major issues. Some patients are having shortness of breath. They may have dizziness, headache, joint aches and pains, still have their smell be gone,” said Dr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, who runs the Post COVID Clinics for long-haulers at University Hospital and UT Health San Antonio.

Many debilitated COVID-19 long-haulers were never originally hospitalized, San Antonio doctor says

The Post COVID Clinics have taken in around 250 patients, and there is a wait to get in.

After Roman left the hospital, he did two weeks of inpatient rehab and then was able to get a spot at the clinic on University Health’s Robert B. Green campus. He has been doing rehab and physical therapy there every week, sometimes twice a week.

“All the doctors have been really good to me. I pray for them every day -- the nurses, everyone,” he said.

Roman is putting every bit of the energy he has left into recovery.

“At rehab, they tell me I’m their hardest worker,” he said. “They tell me to give it 100%, and I tell them I’m going to give it 110%.”

Roman wants his story to serve as a reminder to others.

“This (virus) is a killer. Do the basics. Wear your mask, and if you get the chance, take your shot. Please, I ask you, do it for your family,” he said.

Roman’s advice for other COVID long-haulers is to reach out for help and keep at it.

If you believe you are having long-term symptoms from COVID-19, call 210-743-7192 for appointments or more information. You can also visit the Post COVID Recovery Program website.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.