Hamilton County paramedic powering through stroke with CrossFit
At 29 years old, Ericka Long was at the top of her game.
Hamilton County considered her one of their strongest paramedics. She was in the best shape of her life, thanks to CrossFit.
But then, her health - and life - took a drastic turn.
Ericka is a paramedic in Hixson.
Six months ago, she was working her typical 48-hour shift when her head started pounding.
She never would have guessed that just days later, she would no longer be able to walk, forcing her to reinvent her lifestyle.
Stepping into the gym each day takes dedication, but for Ericka Long, putting one foot in front of the other is even more challenging.
"I didn't know how sick I was, or that I had a stroke or anything," Ericka told us.
One afternoon in February, Ericka was at work, rushing people to the hospital when she started feeling sick.
Her head was pounding and she spiked a fever.
"There was a lot of patient contact with very, very sick people especially in that 48 hours before I got sick," she said.
Doctors believe Ericka contracted meningitis from one of her patients.
Days later, she suffered a stroke.
She couldn't walk, talk, or sit up on her own, and her memory also suffers.
Despite every obstacle against her, Ericka went back to her gym to learn her new body. "My goal was to walk 25 steps without my walker," she said.
So, as her gym mates ran miles, Ericka tackled single steps.
"And when I did, everyone was ecstatic."
Each day, Ericka walks stronger, talks louder, and gains more control of her body and her life.
"Not every day is rainbows and butterflies."
Because for Ericka, stepping into the gym is just the beginning.
Ericka continues to go to physical, occupational, and speech therapy. She hopes to be taking care of other peoples' health again in September.
Hamilton County EMS says Ericka is a great employee and they are anxious to have her back on the team.