“We don’t have help”: people affected by long-term COVID helpless
BET À DAY
Long COVID threatens about 10% of Quebecers who contract the virus, leaving the sick distraught and the few clinics overwhelmed. Even though vaccination reduces the risks, they are still there.
“It makes me panic […] I do anxiety wondering if I will stay the same for long. The cost of living is rising, my mortgage too, and I have no income,” worries Serge Couvrette.
The 50-year-old from Longueuil contracted COVID-19 last September and, six months later, he still experiences painful symptoms. Extreme fatigue that nailed him to bed, mental fog preventing him from concentrating and shortness of breath in addition to difficulty looking at a screen, rendered him unable to work.
The latter worked from home, providing customer service and technical support over the phone for a Quebec lighting company. He tried to come back a few weeks after his infection, but it was a waste of time.
However, Mr. Couvrette believed that his two doses of vaccine would protect him from the long COVID. And he is far from alone in this situation, according to Statistics Canada.
The victims of Omicron
In a study published this fall, the organization estimates that 10.5% of Canadians infected after the emergence of the Omicron variant developed symptoms that persisted for more than three months. This is less than during the first wave, when Statistics Canada put the long COVID cases at around 15% among infected people, but it is a sign that the risk remains present.
“C is that what is mosus, why some people have that and others don't; it’s annoying,” says Mr. Couvrette.
Despite everything, he tries to stay active both physically and mentally. He does wordsearch and reading, plus five to 10 minutes on the treadmill a few times a day.
“It's frustrating because I don't see it getting better,” he points out, adding that he also battles nightmares and dark thoughts about his helplessness.
< p>He would like to participate in research against the long term COVID or simply consult a specialist to understand what is happening to him.
“We don't have help, it's scary”, laments Mr. Couvrette . His family doctor directed him to a clinic in Sherbrooke, but more than 300 people are waiting in front of him. The 811 line directed him to Hôpital Charles-Le Moyne, which also referred him to the same clinic in Sherbrooke.
He specified that on the telephone, he was informed of an expectation of five to six months.
His MP suggested CO-VIE services, which offer virtual meetings with physiotherapists. Mr. Couvrette points out that there were 50 people at the same time during the virtual meeting in which he participated, such is the strong demand.
Talk to someone and get rehabilitation advice have, he says, helped him immensely.
300 people waiting for care
The few clinics caring for patients with the long COVID are overwhelmed with requests, especially after last year's Omicron waves.
Dr. Alain Piché, who directs the specialized clinic for post-COVID-19 conditions in Estrie, has around 300 patients on his waiting list. He's only just started seeing infected people in consultation last summer, he says.
“It's important to keep talking about it. It is the epidemic in the pandemic”, illustrates the specialist.
Epidemiologist-cardiologist and researcher at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center (MUHC), Dr. Thao Huynh, for her part, has doubled the number of patients included in her research project.
With funding for 200 patients, she now sees 400, whom she treats on her own and on her own time, even during her holidays. “I see so much suffering that I can't stop,” says the doctor.
Patients wait about two months before they can be examined.
According to her, the investments announced by the Quebec government are insufficient, but the patients are too exhausted to lobby.
Last year, a sum of $20.5 million was announced to create 15 clinics to treat post-infectious symptoms caused by COVID-19, across the province.
But, for the moment, the Ministry of Health and Social Services indicates that only seven clinics have opened and another is running in.
This fall, Statistics Canada put the number of Canadians who had symptoms of COVID-19 for at least three months at 1.4 million. About a quarter are Quebecers.
Researcher Simon Décary of the Université de Sherbrooke expects “significant advances” at the end of the year. First, clinical studies are carried out to find ways to reduce the risk of long-term COVID, in particular with probiotics or the drug Paxlovid.
Then there is the creation of a practice guide to relieve long-term COVID-related comorbidities with existing drugs.
In 2024, it anticipates the appearance of new drugs for the symptoms of COVID-19.
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