Long-haulers COVID-19 survivors say, 'I want my life back'

Two Moore County men discussed their lives with COVID-19 as symptoms linger for months. Lingering symptoms have been called long-haulers.

Tony Marks became ill in Jan. 2021 and tested negative for COVID-19.

On Feb. 5, Marks was tested for the flu, strep throat and COVID-19 and tested positive for COVID.

FirstHealth hospital kept Marks for 10 hours and administered fluids and steroids and sent him home.

“I felt better, but each day I was home I got worse,” Marks said. “It was sucking the life out of me.”

Marks returned to the emergency room, and the hospital kept him for six days while administering remdesivir, fluids, steroids, and blood thinners.

Today, Marks suffers from electric pain in his arms and legs with recurring muscle spasms, memory loss, voices in his head, loss of comprehension. He resigned from his position as the director of a software company but still works there on less intense duties.

It has been eight months since Marks became ill, and he finds support as a member of Survivor Corps and Long Covid Support on Facebook.

Ronald Rushing is also a member of the support groups and was diagnosed in July 2020.

 Long-haulers COVID-19 sufferers say, 'I want my life back'

Ronald Rushing and his wife Marsha pose at Disney World in February 2020 after running their first half marathon. Contributed photo.

“I didn’t get tested for flu, just COVID,” Rushing said. “Last year, my wife and I ran a marathon. Ran ten miles a week, and now I can barely walk the dog to use the bathroom. I walk with a cane to maintain my balance, horrible fatigue, cough, digestive issues.”

From opioids to over-the-counter, to antidepressants and steroids, Rushing has tried everything for pain and said nothing helps.

“It feels like my brain is on fire — sharp pain,” Rushing said. “Being upright makes it worse. I find it hard to want to live.”

Rushing has not worked since his diagnosis in July 2020 and has a GoFundMe page to help cover expenses. His wife works to help support their six children.

Rushing said he has been going to a psychologist for years and years for the average things and sees specialists at the UNC CH COVID Recovery Clinic. He said they do not have a clue what to try next but refer him to other doctors.

Marks also goes to the UNC-CH COVID Recovery Clinic and said the team of specialists was helpful but that it was all new to them and little research has been conducted.

According to UNC-CH COVID Recovery Clinic’s website, “It is estimated that 10 — 30% of COVID-19 survivors will experience lingering symptoms or health effects, a condition frequently known as “Long COVID.” The most common persistent symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, weakness, headaches, “brain fog” (reduced attention or memory), anxiety, and depression.”

Marks is participating in clinical research with Tulane University, John’s Hopkins University, University of South Carolina, and will later participate with Duke University.

“It is one thing to say ‘why me’ and just want to be cured. It’s another thing to take the opportunity and say ‘why not me’ and be willing to participate in research, so maybe the researchers can figure out what caused COVID long haul. It may not do us any good for this virus, but hopefully, researchers will learn enough to prevent these long-haul symptoms for future viruses,” Marks said.

Rushing has not taken a vaccine and said he read articles it can make symptoms worse and others that say it makes symptoms better for a short period of time.

Marks took his first vaccine in late March and the second in late April and said the hospital warned him he may get COVID-19 again.

According to the CDC, a range of new or ongoing symptoms can last weeks or months after first being infected with the virus, and may include the following:

Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;

Tiredness or fatigue;

Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities (also known as post-exertional malaise);

Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”);


Chest or stomach pain;


Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations);

Joint or muscle pain;

Pins-and-needles feeling;


Sleep problems;


Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness);


Mood changes;

Change in smell or taste;

Changes in menstrual period cycles.

Feature photo: Tony Marks, wife Tina Marks, sons Zach and Justin pose for a family photo on Thanksgiving 2018. Contributed photo.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Journalist Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected].


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