Remote, virtual learning was a challenge for a number of students over the past year. For Fallston High School graduate Eric Lang, his final year of high school — more difficult than he or his family could’ve imagined — might have been an even greater challenge without it.
In late November, Lang started to experience severe muscle weakness and trouble with his motor skills. His doctors sent him to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Initially diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis — a breakdown of muscle tissue that releases a protein into the blood — Lang was sent home to rest as he appeared to be getting better. Instead, his condition worsened and he was sent back to Hopkins for re-evaluation.
He was intubated for 10 days and underwent a battery of tests before doctors eventually found a fist-sized tumor on his thymus gland that had triggered his immune system, according to his parents, Todd and Sue Lang. The tumor, known as a thymoma, caused a neuromuscular disorder called myasthenia gravis that attacked the communication between his nerve cells and muscles, as well as inflammation and breakdown of muscle tissue called myositis.
Thymoma is quite rare, with only about 1.5 cases for every 1 million people each year in the U.S., according to cancer.net.
Doctors were able to remove the tumor and, after several experimental treatments for his autoimmune reaction, more than a month in the hospital and several weeks at the Kennedy Krieger rehabilitation center, Eric Lang is doing much better.
“Right now, I’m doing very good,” he said. “I’m in the clear, but I have to go back and get CT scans every year and keep an eye on it if I’m sick, in case I have another flare.”
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Because he is immunocompromised, Lang had to finish his senior year online as many of his friends and classmates returned to in-person learning, and he was not able to participate in Fallston’s in-person graduation at Ripken Stadium on Monday, but HCPS is giving him a one-person graduation Wednesday.
Lang and his parents were grateful for not only the doctors that saved his life, but also how the school was able to work with him through the ordeal, and wondered how things might’ve gone if virtual learning wasn’t already in place.
“We don’t know what we would have done without Eric’s teachers and the wonderful staff at Fallston High,” Sue Lang said. “Not only were they genuinely concerned about him, they worked continually so that he was able to log into classes and keep up with his work during his rehabilitation stay and once he got home.”
Now, with high school and hopefully his health ailments behind him, Lang has his eye on the future.
The Forest Hill resident plans to attend Virginia Tech and study international relations and national security. With an interest in foreign policy, Lang said he wants to work for the Department of Defense or the Department of State one day. He’s also hoping to parlay his five years of studying French and German while attending Harford County Public Schools to working in Europe, where he can put those skills to use.
He also considers himself a geography and history buff.
“I can identify almost all of the countries in the world and most of their flags,” Land said. “If I find something in history that interests me — especially European history — I try and chase down as much information on the internet as I can find. This often leads me down other roads that I go down too. My teachers think it’s cool.”