covid-19 long haulers

DC Firefighter Who Contracted COVID-19 Fears Losing Job

D.C. firefighter Charles Huebner has feared for his job since struggling with COVID-19 symptoms months after infection

NBC Universal, Inc.

One D.C. firefighter tested positive for COVID-19 more than a year ago — and he is still being affected.

“Prior to all this I was super fit,” Charles Huebner said. “Heart rates were in the 70s, blood pressure was textbook, 120 over 80. Now, my blood pressure is 160 over 80, and pulse in the 140s.”

Three days after the World Health Organization announced a pandemic, Huebner tested positive for the coronavirus. The firefighter’s symptoms were so bad that he was told he would have to retire.

For months, Huebner battled symptoms while taking a high amount of blood pressure medication.

“So I maxed out on a beta blocker. There is no higher dose of a beta blocker that I could take,” Huebner said.

Then, the firefighter received shocking news in the mail. About four months after getting the virus, Huebner was told he would have to leave the job with little to no compensation.

“Probably June or July I received my first retirement letter,” Huebner said. “I reached out to everyone I could, my union, the fire chief.”

D.C. Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly said that of the 1,100 firefighters who have taken the vaccine, none of them had been hospitalized. Of the two firefighters that are now in the hospital, neither of them took the vaccine.

Donnelly said that there are others like Huebner who contracted COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic but are still struggling with symptoms.

“We have five or six people that are what we call COVID long-haulers. And what their outcome is in terms of their health is going to be, is still being determined by the doctors,” Donnelly said. “[…] We’re not intending to retire anybody at this point. We still need to learn more about the medicine and what their outcomes are going to be.”

News4 shared the news with Huebner, who has remained hopeful.

“That’s kind of exciting,” he said. “I just hope that my heart does heal, (and) I’ll be back to where I was.”

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