Affectionately known as "Peaches,'' Steve Long spent 28 days ding-dong-ditching death's door.
Today, his voice is raspy, as if he's gargling gravel. The result of a tube down his throat for nearly a month.
The legs are sturdy. The walker's been tossed in favor of a cane.
His left arm, though, is balky. Nerve damage in the shoulder, they tell him. It's what happens when you spend four weeks belly-down, 12 hours at time, with both arms raised overhead, while in a coma.
What's perfect, though, is Steve Long's 24-karat, gratitude-filled heart. It comes complete with a promise to personally thank everyone who waged a near-death battle with him.
And his signature sense of humor? It's alive. And it's well.
"I can't believe I'm here,'' said the 52-year-old Milan native, a Rock Island High School graduate and 20-plus year employee of John Deere, who with new wife, Yvonne, and son, Brant, live in Oakdale, Minn. "It was hell, but I'll be back and good as new.''
It was then — in a phone conversation — Steve's humor took over. Yvonne, a first-team sweetheart and stand-up funny herself, questioned the "in sickness and in health'' line from the wedding vows the two — friends decades ago at Rock Island High School — shared just seven weeks before her husband almost left us.
"Now she wants a do-over,'' Steve Long said. "Now!''
It was last days of March and the first three days in April, that Steve caught a headache he could not shake. With it came bloodshot eyes, no sense of smell and a low-grade fever hovering in the 99.7-degree range.
Doctors told Long not to go to the hospital despite having symptoms of the coronavirus. On April 3, Steve, Brant and Yvonne Long played basketball together in their driveway.
A day later, their lives changed.
"On April 4, he could not breathe,'' Yvonne said of Steve. "He was struggling. So Brant helped him get ready and we took him to the emergency room.''
Hours later, Steve was sedated into a coma. His lungs had been compromised almost beyond repair, with oxygen levels at a near-death numbers. Placed on ventilator, Steve had a tracheotomy to clean and remove secretions from the airway and safely deliver oxygen to the lungs.
Yvonne was told her husband of less than two months might not live.
Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309-757-8388 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
" I would be restless, agitated at the noise in the room, anything. They told me it was her voice every night that put me in a safe place."
Steve Long, about nurses holding the phone to his ear during his 30 coma
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