The paramedics who brought Covid-19 back to the front line with a new understanding of the enemy

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“I was able to be more in touch with my patients who called me, because I knew exactly how they felt,” said firefighter / EMT Shantice Samuels, who has just returned to work in Washington, DC, after s ‘be surrendered from a case itself.

“The most difficult symptom for me was shortness of breath and body aches,” she told CNJ affiliate WJLA.

“When they talk to people, the questions they ask put them more in tune with what’s going on,” said Deputy Fire Chief John Donnelly of the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department who also recovered. “The other thing they can do is give somebody insurance and say, I survived this, you can relax, we will ask you for help, these are the things that will then happen. “

And that goes beyond understanding a person’s symptoms, said Captain Chris Warner, who tested positive with an irritated throat and split headache, but has since returned to work with Fairfax County Fire & Rescue in Virginia.

“I have a greater sense of appreciation not only for what the patient experiences, but also for his family, as well as for the concerns of colleagues,” he said.

He also received a brutal reminder of the danger to first responders of being infected.

“It was a sobering moment,” said Warner. “You know the possibility is there, but for someone to say that your test came back positive … was definitely annoying. “

& # 39; Anyone who says they are not afraid during this is lying to you. & # 39; A day in the life of paramedics in a pandemic

The risks for first responders like EMTs are considerable. Any patient they treat could be a carrier who infects them with the disease. At least 10 New York City firefighters with coronavirus have died and several thousand others have become ill.

“There are so many of my colleagues who have fallen ill,” said FDNY paramedic Aline Bocanegra Reich. “Me, my partner, a lot of people from my station, my captain – there are so many people. “

She is now back at work after fighting against herself.

“I have never been so sick in my entire life,” she said.

She is one of 3,000 FDNY workers who tested positive – endured the symptoms, went through isolation and got over the disease – and are already back to work.

It is widely believed that recovering patients acquire at least some immunity to Covid-19 as a result of its struggle, as they do with many other communicable diseases. If survivors have some protection against a new disease, this would make them ideal front-line workers, rather than others who are at higher risk of infection.

But a week ago, the World Health Organization warned that it was too early in the pandemic to determine if the survivors really had immunity.

Until proven, recovered firefighters are not affected any differently from the rest, said Donnelly, one of 57 DC firefighters who returned to work after fighting a coronavirus.

“To watch them leave, as if they hadn’t missed a step, and I know they had to worry about it,” said Donnelly. “It was a little emotional for me. “

And for better or worse, everyone who comes back now knows from personal experience what they are facing. Samuels’ partner at Engine Company 32 in Washington, DC, EMT Traes Ceasar, was the department’s first Covid-19 case and is back at work.

“My first call was a Covid affair,” Ceasar told the WJLA. “You know, they just threw me in. I was like, let’s go! “

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