Long Haul COVID-19 Survivor Warns About Disease's Long-Term Effects

Rick Banuelos was first diagnosed with COVID-19 in December 2020 and he's still not back to his old self

NBC Universal, Inc.

Seven months. That’s how long it’s been since Rick Banuelos left Sharp Memorial Hospital after battling COVID-19.

It’s also been seven months of rehabilitation for the Chula Vista man who says he is considered a long hauler.

“I got rear-ended,” Banuelos said of his COVID-19 diagnosis. “It was one of those things where you just don’t know where it comes from.”

Banuelos said he suffered from breathing problems ever since he left the hospital in January.

“I couldn’t walk,” he explained. “I couldn’t walk five steps. It was really, really bad.”

“He was scared. He was on oxygen,” said Sharp Rehabilitation Center therapist Kathleen Kennedy.

She has worked with dozens of patients on the front lines and in rehab.

“It has been a beast,” she said. “I got to be honest: I’ve been in this field many, many years and I’ve not seen anything quite like this.”

Kennedy said there are a lot of long haulers who deal with residual side effects from the virus. She said people battle for months against aches, dizziness, swelling, and breathing problems.

“It just goes on and on. There’s a lot of symptoms,” she said. “The game is continued.”

Banuelos said he contracted the virus in December before the vaccine was available.

“If you haven’t gotten hit by the COVID, go get vaccinated,” he declared.

For some people, it’s something they still have to battle seven months later.

“You got to thank the Creator for something like this, that you survived,” concluded Banuelos. “You start hearing, ‘OK, so on and so forth, this guy didn’t make it. This gal didn’t make it.’ You start feeling blessed. You start feeling grateful.”

Contact Us