Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler.
I was late to the game for the TV show “House,” but I caught up quickly.
I love the concept of the flawed hero, and Dr. Gregory House is definitely one of those. Absolutely brilliant, he is recognized and grudgingly accepted as The Man when it comes to deciphering the most difficult medical mysteries and yanking patients back from the brink of death — or sometimes from beyond.
But he’s also an asshole.
He’s mean, abrupt, arrogant, a prescription drug addict. His personal life is a mess, he consistently sabotages himself, his leg is a shattered mess and, were it not for that one special ability to be better than anyone else at something that matters, no one would talk to him. Ever.
A month or so ago, I was sitting on the couch marinating in all my Longhauler symptoms and said to my wife, “Ya know, Dr. House woulda figured this shit out by now.”
But to steal a line from former Boston Celtics basketball coach Rick Pitino, Dr. House is not walking through that door.
Which leaves a world full of talented real-life doctors trying to figure out this:
I’m a storyteller. That’s what I do. That’s who I am. And stories come in many forms. My personal favorite is the written word. But sometimes one graphic tells a story better than 1,500 words ever could.
I’ve written a lot of things about my journey as a Longhauler. Yet nothing I have written or ever will write sums up the plight of Longhaulers better than that graphic. I don’t even care that, as depicted here, you can’t read the text on the left. If you take the time to figuratively zoom out from this graphic and take in its entirety, you understand: Longhaul COVID is different from anything the medical community has ever seen before.
Dr. House was old-school when it came to figuring out his patient’s medical mystery. It all started with his whiteboard. He’d throw the list of symptoms up there, and he and his minions would discuss what that odd combination of maladies indicated. Of course, this was all just a vehicle for him to belittle his team, and the actual cause of the problem never appeared on the whiteboard. After all, there’s no drama in figuring something out on a whiteboard.
But could you imagine that scene with that list of symptoms? How many whiteboards would Dr. House need before he would look at it all, give that head tilt and far-away stare and then grab his cane and limp off toward the patient’s room to reveal that he’d solved the mystery? There aren’t enough dry-erase markers out there.
And so we as Longhaulers must give the medical community more grace than we sometimes feel lives inside us. We go through the tests and we get the results that do or do not show the something that we know is wrong, and even if it does show a something, we swallow the bitter pill that there might not be anything that can be done about it. At least not now. Not yet.
The doctors are trying. They might not be Dr. House, but come on, folks. No one is. He’s fictional. He’s an amalgamation of a million different medical savants from throughout the course of humanity. He’s a collective brain, a one-mind.
So yes, we are startled when a doctor tells us, “I’m baffled by your symptoms” because doctors aren’t supposed to say that! Doctors are supposed to know! Maybe not that doctor but certainly this one or this one or this one. But no… Dr. House isn’t walking through that door.
And so we wait. Patiently. Impatiently. For someone to figure it out. For the collective to figure it out.