There are people who have been since March, just when the coronavirus pandemic, sick of Covid-19. During all this time, and because they are not seriously ill, they have been relegated to the last positions of the queue in health care, which has lived and lives situations of collapse. They denounce that they have been the great forgotten of this pandemic, suffering alone from the multiple symptoms of the disease. But not only have they suffered and do suffer from a certain sanitary neglect, but they are also victims of misunderstanding and, in some cases, the business malpractice, being laid off in full sick leave.
Sonia Bilbao (43 years old) has been ill with Covid since March 6. He was infected in the veterinary office he ran from a pet shop in Artea, a few kilometers from Sopelana (Vizcaya), where he lives. A little over a month ago she received a letter from the company informing her that she had been fired. “They announce an objective dismissal to me because I do not generate income. But how am I going to generate them if I’m in bed! Let them hire someone to keep my job. It’s terrible, there is a lot of hidden Covid dismissal ”. With the help of a lawyer, he has managed for the time being that the dismissal becomes inadmissible.
It all started “with very rare and horrible headaches and chills throughout the spinal cord.” Then came “the drunken altitude sickness, which blocks you.” Veterinarian by profession and fond of high mountain mountaineering, she warned her coordinator that “that way she could not diagnose.” “It is as if your knowledge is no longer in your head. You go with a blank sheet of paper to work. You forget how to do veterinary surgery, you can’t even drive ”.
Like many other people with symptoms of Covid but who were not serious, they did not perform PCR “until three months”, although she is diagnosed with the disease due to the symptoms she presents. “There is an underdiagnosis of the first wave because they didn’t do a PCR, there wasn’t. And there is another underdiagnosis because pneumonia was only known as a symptom of the disease, and not everyone developed them ”.
There is an institutional denial of this chronic disease “
Now he says he is better than in March, although he continues to have intermittent low-grade fever, headaches that he had never had, fatigue since he got up … And that’s not all: “I also have pain. My body hurts as if I had the flu, especially in the upper region between the scapulae, on the shoulders, neck, nape. I have a choking sensation in my throat, all the muscles of my larynx and pharynx are contracting. I also suffer from the digestive system. So I have been eight months, it is torture. When you get up you think, ‘let’s see what I get today’ ”.
It denounces that “there is an institutional denial of this chronic and persistent disease.” “It’s awful. If the problem is not recognized, it will not be invested in it, so you will have young people medicated with anxiolytics saying that they have anxiety. Sure, anxiolytics are very cheap, and require neither testing nor research. But that is not going to cure us ”.
Sonia perfectly meets the profile of a persistent Covid patient identified by the Spanish Society of General and Family Physicians (SEMG) and the Long Covid ACTS affected groups thanks to a survey conducted between July 13 and October 14, This year: a 43-year-old woman, who has had continuous symptoms of the disease for more than 185 days after being infected in the first wave of the pandemic.
Daniela, the fictitious name of a 45-year-old woman who prefers not to reveal her identity, is also quite close to the profile. Like Sonia, she was fired while on sick leave. You are now in dispute with your company.
In July 2019, he started working for a firm that makes furniture. With the emergence of Covid, in March 2020, the company entered ERTE, and a month later she was infected with the virus, so she had to take the leave. A week later, he explains, and despite being on leave, the company asked him to telecommute from home. “At the end I was away for a month, I asked for voluntary discharge due to pressure even though I was not feeling well.”
At the end of August, he was still not well, so he had to take a second sick leave, which would become long-term due to his health. On October 14, she received a statement from the General Treasury of the Social Security informing her that she had been discharged. Days later, through a lawyer, she was able to verify that the company had fired her. Most surprising was the type of dismissal: disciplinary.
I can’t remember words that I normally use, I’ve lost vocabulary. How can it be?”
“They make me a disciplinary dismissal when, first, I asked for voluntary discharge the first time without being well because a project had to finish and, secondly, they asked me to work all day when we were in ERTE, which I did,” he laments. “I signed up the hours I worked overtime to spend as overtime, but they never paid me. It makes people angry how they harm the worker ”.
After nearly seven months of contracting the disease, quite a few symptoms remain. “The low-grade fever has disappeared, but the fatigue, tingling, pain in the joints, dizziness continue… I can’t concentrate. I can’t remember words that I normally use, I’ve lost vocabulary. How can it be?”.
You wonder what will happen if the symptoms stay forever “
In July, they detected a bacterium in his body, brucella, which is no longer present in Catalonia, where he lives. The private infectologist who monitors him – “public health is collapsed”, Daniela emphasizes – told him that it was a “false positive” because his “immune system is very altered.”
Receive psychological support once a month. “It’s something”. Her GP immediately referred her, also to the psychiatrist, because she has trouble sleeping. “My mood goes to days. There are times when you don’t feel like doing anything, you wonder what will happen if the symptoms stay forever ”, he reflects.
Álvaro Rial (29 years old) has the same type of doubts, who has been suffering from Covid symptoms since March. Like Daniela and Sonia, he also lost his job, although his contract was not renewed in February, a month before he contracted the disease.
Eight months will shortly be completed since he became ill. “The first three were horrible. If I had been every month like at that time, I don’t think I would be alive ”. He says that of the more than 30 symptoms he has had, “four or five” still remain. “I suffer from vascular problems, sometimes I have conjunctivitis, lumps on my legs that swell, tingling in my arms and legs. I have touched my digestive system, with stomach pains. I also have fatigue, some days extreme, a fatigue that is not typical of a person of 29 years. In recent times I also have pain in my spine and muscles, as if I had rheumatism ”. He says he feels better psychologically than at the beginning – “I no longer fear for my life” – although he confesses that the idea of not knowing whether or not he will have “sequels for life” stuns him.
One of the things that has left the most impression on him is the misunderstanding he has received throughout this time, a lack of empathy that, in part, has ended up costing him his marriage. “I was tested late and everything came back negative. My partner told me that ‘science is science, if it comes out negative, you haven’t passed it’. He believed that he was suggesting everything and that he was entering a psychotic break.
He relates that he spent “three months spitting blood” and that his partner defended that “it was from coughing and straining his throat.” “I went to an endocrinologist and he found me at the base of my tongue, almost in my throat, scarred capillaries, that is, they had ‘exploded’ due to the vascular problem that I now have due to Covid”.
“Do you know what it is to go to a doctor, explain everything you’ve been through from the beginning, and have him look at you with a face as if you were crazy?” “There are people who fall into a depression, I had to take antidepressants. It’s just that it doesn’t fit you, you see that the pain doesn’t subside and the doctors tell you that they will pass, but everything continues the same. You collapse ”.
He fears that cases like his will be left behind. “They didn’t listen to us in March, and now they won’t be able to because of the new cases. A persistent wave of people affected by Covid is going to gather that cannot be sustained. If they don’t investigate, it will be worse. Now we bother, but every time we will be more, and the voices of so many people will not be able to silence ”, sentence.
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