For Maya McNulty, a simple task like emptying the dishwasher and drying bowls and containers can be a challenge.
“These are big wins, even though they look like little wins,” McNulty said.
After a task like that, McNulty checks her heart rate and oxygen. She’ll do this several times a day after any activity to make sure she is staying within her levels.
“Usually, at rest it’s about 90 to 100, and if I have some type of activity, it’s like 125 to 135,” said McNulty, who lives in Niskayuna.
About a year ago, McNulty contracted the coronavirus and was hospitalized for several weeks. She has to do all this because she is a COVID "long-hauler."
At 48 years old, McNulty had no underlying health conditions. But days later, she was hospitalized, and spent six weeks on a ventilator and a month in a coma.
“It was really hard those couple of times, not knowing what your fate was going to be,” McNulty said.
McNulty survived, but her recovery was just starting. After being released from the hospital, she was transferred to Sunnyview Rehabilitation, where McNulty learned to walk again, while also focusing on pulmonary rehab.
With each step, McNulty is making progress.
When McNulty first arrived here, she was using a walker. Today, she does a lot of her physical therapy without her cane, making headway in endurance, balance, and strength over the last several months.
“I’m a little out of breath, but this is normal for a long hauler to be out of breath with a few steps,” McNulty said.
Jackie Gatta is one of the physical therapists working with McNulty. She says McNulty was her first COVID patient here. That has allowed Gatta to not only help McNulty, but also learn about what long haulers are experiencing and how to best assist them.
“She is up moving a lot more, which I think is a testament to her overall endurance,” Gatta said. “It has improved greatly, which with the COVID population is a tough thing to increase.”
While McNulty is overcoming a lot of adversities, it’s still tough for her to think about the independence she used to have, or the times she could go hiking, swimming, or even driving.
But what keeps her going is the finish line. She graduates from physical therapy on March 29.
“I don’t take it for granted anymore,” McNulty tells Gatta. “You know?”
But she also frequently shares her story, hoping it’ll help others.
Last year, she created a Facebook group called COVID Wellness Clinic. It’s a place where members can share their experiences, ask questions, and not feel alone.
“We’ll have wellness workshops, but most importantly of all, we’re going to listen and support,” McNulty said.
The group has more than 1,000 members, and she is already creating a 501c3 for it. McNulty calls it her second life — to help others through what she has endured. The last few months has given her time to pause and reflect on how grateful she is.
McNulty really enjoys the little things, like arts and crafts, which she says is therapeutic.
“It’s a priceless memory,” McNulty said, “and I think that helps you survive in these unprecedented times.”