Sometimes I feel like the only thing I’ve written, talked about and thought about over the past two and a half years is Long Covid. Part of it is that Managing my Long Covid Symptoms–extreme fatigue, cognitive impairment, nervous system impairment, exercise intolerance, vitamin deficiencies, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, chronic pain–full time job. But most of it is that I don’t feel like I’ve really expressed myself about Long Covid in a way that has let people see me. I’ve never been so desperate to be understood. Which is why he’s a non-binary WNBA star AD Durr’s Long Covid documentary, not touchedIt made me cry from start to finish. For the first time since Covid hit me in March 2020, I have seen myself, my struggles, my lessons and my victories reflected in my face. It is – and I don’t say this often – that literally everyone should watch.
AD Durr was the second pick for the 2019 WNBA draft, landing with New York Liberty after an impressive college career in Louisville, where they were voted almost unanimously as the ACC Player of the Year. They averaged 10 points and 27 minutes in their rookie season in the WNBA, which is a solid ride in the league with a very steep learning curve. And then, when the first wave of Covid swept through New York City in the spring of 2020, they settled, and they became among the first people in the world to deal with Long Covid, something that didn’t even have a name at the time.
not touched, – produced by the sports group TOGETHXR in partnership with the brand to empower LeBron James athletes, UNINTERRUPTED – track AD as they search for a cure for their symptoms, and attempt to continue training for a professional sport despite the fact that every action they take has completely disproportionate physical consequences. It’s the hardest thing about dealing with post-viral illness: your body often doesn’t respond to what’s going on until hours or days later, so it’s impossible to “listen” to it and know when to stop. Even after light exercise, without cardio, Alzheimer’s find themselves nausea and vomiting, with a burning chest pain and an inability to raise their heads in bed. None of the persevering and resilient lessons they absorbed as world-class athletes mattered because “moving forward” was the worst thing they could do. (There are moments when coaches, coaches, and doctors insist that what happens to them is mostly mental, which is really my only problems with the documentary. That’s both Incorrect and dangerous A way to frame Long Covid or any post-viral illness.)
AD’s journey with Long Covid is so much more than just back on the field. “Covid stripped me of my identity,” they say, as they invite us to sessions with their amazing therapist, who pushes them to dig deeper when they talk about who they are, to examine how they came to understand who AD really is, and how they choose to communicate that to the world. During their battle with Long Covid, AD, who had always been openly gay, appeared as a non-binary person and changed his name to AD. When they finally see some progress in their recovery, they tell their coach, “Do you know what’s really going to motivate me? Call me M. This will hit a switch.” Their parents are trying hard. It is not easy for them to change the name and pronoun, but it is clear that they love their child very much and want to honor them by understanding him correctly. AD’s fiancée Taylor Johnson accompanies them every step of the way in their recovery and sexual journey.
When an AD therapist asks them who they are, they say: “Who am I? My fiancée calls me her husband. All my best friends call me their brother. It’s normal. It’s what I feel normal for me.”
not touched AD sees them return to Liberty and struggle with minimal playing time, then finally find their home when they are traded into the Atlanta Dream, where they begin playing key minutes and placing game-changing numbers. “Identity is so much more than just basketball,” AD says after achieving success at ATL. “And now I know, if I can get through Long Covid, I can get through anything in life.”
Never touched it Available to stream for free on YouTube. Follow AD on Twitter for more information about their career and their defense of Long Covid.