How a COVID Diagnosis Saved This Long Island Toddler's Life

"Two months ago, if you asked me how I was feeling, I wouldn’t be in as good a place as I am right now," said mom Alex Long

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It goes without saying how devastating COVID-19 has been on many families, but could an infant getting infected with the virus have helped save his life? Doctors on Long Island say that appears to have been the case.

Two-year-old William Long laughed it up at a press conference on Thursday, with a smile that can light up any room. But he and his family weren't so joyous not too long ago.

"Two months ago, if you asked me how I was feeling, I wouldn’t be in as good a place as I am right now," said mom Alex Long.

That's because at that time, she was watching her toddler undergo brain surgery.

William was born at the height of the pandemic. In 2021, when he was just 8 months old, he and his parents contracted COVID. He was sick with a high fever, then suffered a seizure — which at the time, his parents thought was a result of the virus.

His parents rushed him to the hospital, starting a chain of events that saved his life. Because that seizure was a symptom of something much worse.

As doctors at Cohen Children’s Medical were treating the seizure, they discovered an abnormality on the right side little William's brain. After a year of testing and monitoring, that abnormality was diagnosed as an egg-sized brain tumor.

"Devastating, in a word. I don’t think there’s another word to describe it," said dad Michael Long.

But with the devastation came a glimmer of hope. Thanks to William contracting COVID, the tumor was caught early on.

"It could keep spreading to other parts of the brain that would make it inoperable. So clearly, an early diagnosis was a silver lining here," Dr. Shaun Rodgers said. "Miraculously, COVID might have saved his life."

William still sports the scar from the six-hour surgery he underwent in December. The result: The brain tumor was removed with no damage to the boy's memory or speech. An MRI showed the empty space where the tumor once grew.

"He’s not gonna have any problem from this," said Dr. Rodgers.

Doctors will have to monitor William’s brain for the next 10 years to make sure the tumor doesn’t return, meaning he will have to undergo years of tests. But he’s expected to have a normal life. So now when little William smiles, his parents feel lucky — despite the struggle they have endured.

"We know a lot of families aren’t as lucky as us. So we count our blessings every day," said Alex Long. "We’re just so lucky.  There’s really no other way to put it"

The Longs know very well the pain COVID caused for so many, but for them this virus may have helped preserve the long-term health of their family.

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