‘Lottery that ends in hospital’: Australian Covid survivors speak out

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‘Lottery that ends in hospital’: Australian Covid survivors speak out


Mark * did everything right.

He has been following public health measures and, as a person working in health promotion, he was fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at the end of April, having enrolled as soon as he became eligible. The 26-year-old, who lives in the Canterbury-Bankstown area in southwest Sydney, wore a mask, washed his hands and kept his distance.

But last Saturday, despite having no symptoms, he tested positive for the coronavirus, having acquired the Delta variant spreading in Sydney, with cases increasing particularly in his local government area. He has no idea how he caught it.

“It really highlighted for me how fleeting the transmission can be,” he says from his apartment where he is in quarantine with his partner.

“It’s a little frustrating to have caught him despite all the steps I’ve taken, but I also know that I couldn’t have done anything more. “

Because Mark lives in a high-risk area, he has to be tested for Covid every 72 hours. On Friday, he tested negative. On Saturday, his partner, with whom he lives, had symptoms of a cold. Although Mark had no symptoms and had been tested hours before, he accompanied her to take a Covid test.

She tested negative, but to Mark’s surprise he was infected. Her partner continued to return negative test results, and because their apartment has two bathrooms and two bedrooms, they were able to isolate themselves separately in the same house. The NSW Department of Health has offered Mark hotel accommodation, but no rooms are available yet given the high demand.

Mark says he has no doubts that his fully vaccinated status means he was diagnosed almost a week ago, still has no symptoms and does not appear to have passed it on to anyone, not even to his partner.

Health workers administer Covid tests at a drive-thru testing clinic in Fairfield in southwest Sydney in July. Photographie : Dan Hambrechts/AAP

In many ways, Mark’s story illustrates so many key messages that health experts have repeated about Covid and in particular the Delta variant. Young people are sensitive. People who have been vaccinated can still catch the virus, but it protects considerably against serious infections and death, and probably offers strong protection against transmission of the virus. Delta is highly infectious and spreads more easily than others, so much so that in some cases it is difficult to detect where transmission has occurred, even with strong contact tracing.

But he feels luckier than most. Mark has been able to take time off work to quarantine himself, has a housing situation that allows him to isolate himself quite easily and he can afford groceries even though the wait time is more than one hour. week. In a pinch, he has friends who don’t have to travel far to drop urgent supplies – like food for his cat – outside his door.

But he says others locked out have no choice but to live with multiple family members in small apartments, or to continue working in essential jobs despite the risk of contracting Covid.

“I feel like I haven’t received as much of the stigma and shame that a lot of other people go through, especially people who are really vulnerable workers who really have no choice but to work, ”he says.

“There’s this narrative that they break the restrictions and have a higher risk of infection, but that’s the risk they often have to take due to the urgency of their needs and the limited number of options to them to be supported outside of the obligation to take these risks.

“I think the spread in locked LGAs is absolutely a symptom of lack of access to resources and lack of access to secure work. The kind of disadvantages of the region were inherent initially and these factors do not exist in many higher socio-economic LGAs like Bondi.

Yoga, who lives in Melton, Victoria, experienced the stigma during the pandemic in a different way. Months after leaving the intensive care unit after becoming critically ill with Covid, some of his friends refused to meet with him because they believed he might still be spreading the virus. Yoga caught the virus in August during Victoria’s second wave.

“We need reality education for the people who survived it and to get the message across that they don’t keep giving it,” he says.

“Once the restrictions were lifted and I was better, I reached out to a few friends and family to reunite and celebrate with them after the difficult year, and some simply refused, saying, ‘Oh no, you had Covid . ‘ “

It took a week for her positive test result to come back to her, which also meant there was a delay in her evaluation by a healthcare professional.

Yoga, who is 43, had no underlying health issues when he caught the virus. He was in good shape, having competed in cycling events over 200 km distance. Despite this and his young age, he suffered a lot from the Covid. He developed pulmonary embolism, a dangerous disease where a blood clot lodges in an artery in the lung, blocking blood flow. He spent three weeks in intensive care. He had trouble breathing and doctors told him his lung capacity would never be the same again.

Covid-19 is something Yoga never wants to relive again and still fears, so when the vaccination opened up to his age group, he signed up right away and he has now had two jabs. Even so, he continues to take precautions, knowing he can still potentially catch the virus and pass it on, although he at least hopes this will make the spread more difficult and the symptoms less severe.

“Life has not returned to normal for me. I’m still much more careful about where I go and what I do – and also who I spend time with, ”he says.

“I still can’t believe we’re still in this situation, or in a worse situation than a year ago. Just with so many exhibition sites and cases yet, especially with what’s going on in Sydney where the three-digit numbers just keep on increasing. That’s why I’m just for the vaccination, it’s something else you can do to protect yourself and the people around you. The disease is very real. It is not something made up.

Rare look inside Sydney Covid-19 intensive care unit as man fights for his life - video
Rare look inside Sydney Covid-19 intensive care unit as man fights for his life – video

When Derek Young and his wife Gabriela Domicelj caught Covid in March 2020, they were among the first Australian cases. The couple were ill at a time when there was no vaccine or even certainty on how best to treat those who were getting worse.

Young, 55, was extremely tired, slept 20 or more hours a day, and suffered from severe shaking, brain fog, muscle pain, hallucinations and hot flashes. He spent a short time in hospital with pneumonia which required antibiotics. He continues to suffer from the effects of having had the virus, including exhaustion and an inability to maintain the level of activity he was used to before Covid. But despite having mild asthma, his experience with Covid was nowhere near as severe as that of his wife.

Domicelj, who is the same age and was healthy at the time with no underlying health issues, had very different symptoms. She was restless, restless and couldn’t rest. She quickly deteriorated and was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit after developing another type of pneumonia unique to Covid-19, which antibiotics are ineffective in treating.

Domicelj and Young are now enrolled in a study led by St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney that examines the long-term effects of Covid. The symptoms of Domicelj remain particularly severe. At one point, she took a piece of white paper and started listing the symptoms that she continues to suffer from in colorful text as a way to keep track: “hair loss”, “swollen ankles”, “shortness of breath. “,” Lung scars “and” high blood pressure “are among dozens of ailments.

The two have now been fully vaccinated and they believe the vaccine has helped relieve their symptoms in the long run. According to researchers at Yale University in the United States, up to 30 to 40% of people with long-term symptoms who receive the vaccine have reported improvements.

“I have three children,” Young says. “And unfortunately, it is difficult for them to access the vaccine because of their age. But as much as possible, I tell them when it’s available go out and get it because the risk isn’t worth it.

“The risk of having a reaction to the vaccine is low compared to the risk of contracting Covid. And as our experience shows, it’s just not worth the risk of catching Covid. And it seems like a bit of a lottery to figure out who ends up in the hospital and ultimately who ends up dying, and who doesn’t. We are still not quite sure why some people suffer so much more than others.

“So don’t wait. To get vaccinated. “

* Name changed to protect identity

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