In Italy we speak of “post-Covid syndrome”, while in the Anglo-Saxon world we say “long-haulers” (“long-term sick”, ed) and “Long Covid”. Different definitions, but same symptoms: chronic fatigue, breathlessness, myalgia, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, gastrointestinal symptoms, altered smell and taste, skin rash, hair loss. The list of ailments is long, just like that of the people who complain of them.
Ramona’s voice joins that of Colombian brunette, 59-year-old worker from Truccazzano (province of Milan) and former Covid patient hospitalized in Bergamo in the days of the emergency that founded the Facebook group We who have defeated Covid. The one administered by Morena is a self-support community in which thousands of healed from all over Italy, weeks after discharge and / or negativization, discuss long-term symptoms and social and work consequences of their condition.
“I got sick at the end of February and was admitted to the Bergamo hospital diagnosed with interstitial pneumonia. Towards the end of March, after the negative swabs, I was called back from the health facility for hyperimmune plasma donation. From that moment on, silence from the doctors and no further checks as I began my ordeal: chronic fatigue, breathlessness and muscle aches, which still hinder me in returning to work ”, the woman tells HuffPost.
“’It takes time and patience, it will pass’, were the words of my doctor in March. And time passed, but I was struggling even just to walk up a plane of stairs “says Morena, continuing:” From there I began a series of clinical tests: lungs finally in place, all normal values except those of the thyroid hormones. At the end of July, during the first long-awaited follow-up at the Hospital of Bergamo, the virologist recommended endocrinological control. I, who had never had such problems before, found myself with a blocked thyroid and a pill to take for life. I’m still sick today. I have pains and breathlessness that do not seem to subside “.
Morena has been in hospital, but even those who are treated at home may have “post-Covid” problems months after the official recovery. This is precisely the case of the 41-year-old Ramona, who on February 28 began to feel low-grade fever, chest pains, back pain, dizziness: “It was clearly something other than a simple flu,” he tells us.
“I got sick when here in Bergamo there was a full emergency. Doctors and ambulances did not respond except in extreme cases such as lung collapse. Despite having interstitial pneumonia detected by Tac, I was unable to get a tampon and I treated myself at home with the instructions of the general practitioner “says the woman, who lets out” I was alone with two children, whom I tried with great effort to keep away while having to provide for them, using all necessary precautions. I thank Heaven for not having infected them ”.
Weeks passed, but Ramona continued to feel bad. “I had a low-grade fever until mid-April, a period in which the situation of the health facilities in Bergamo began to improve. At the beginning of May I was able to undergo the serological test resulting highly positive for IgG antibodies, ie those produced after developing immunity to the disease. It was officially Covid, even if for me the swab didn’t arrive in time ”, he confesses.
And while the belated confirmation of having contracted the virus arrived, the debilitating symptoms did not diminish: “Dizziness, difficulty focusing, loss of taste and smell then found again, great hair loss now stopped, then pains in the neck, back and especially the chest “.
Ramona’s chest still hurts a lot, “like a stab, for no apparent clinical reason: the CT scans say that the lungs are healed and the scars left by the inflammation are now light, I have no heart problems. Neurological checks to verify that the origin of the pain was not of another nature were also negative ”.
“I’m trying to take back the reins of my life, with difficulty. I have a company and two children to raise: I can’t stop, but in the evening I’m exhausted by pain “, is Ramona’s outburst of the aftermath of the disease, which must also be faced with medical examinations and specialist visits, very often at the expense of patients.
The goal of the Facebook group We who have defeated Covidin fact, it is also to see the “post-Covid syndrome” officially recognized in order to have the reimbursement of health care expenses. “Exists the regional exemption D97 but it only concerns examinations and visits for symptoms closely related to the virus that are prescribed at hospital follow-ups – Morena Colombi tells HuffPost -. For the rest, we must provide for ourselves and out of our own pocket ”.
“Not having swabbed in time to detect the infection in progress, despite being highly positive for serological, I am not considered a Covid patient. For this reason I am not followed up by hospital follow-ups and I am not even entitled to the exemption. So far I have paid for all the visits and exams I have undergone – Ramona says -. From March to today I think I have spent around 1,700 euros. Beyond the damage the mockery”.
Not having been swabbed in time is also there Milena, 53 year old from Bergamo employee of a supermarket. “In January I returned from a trip to London and I started to feel very tired. Towards the end of the month, terrible sore throat and fever at 37 and a half, then cough. Visited by the general practitioner, one lung was obstructed. On prescription, I started a course of antibiotics but it seemed to have no effect. In the meantime, I had also lost my taste ”, he tells us.
“I couldn’t work anymore. I suffered throughout the month of February and in March I had a very strong tracheitis. Meanwhile, Covid cases were multiplying in Italy. After contacting the health authorities for a swab, I had not received feedback: in Bergamo everything was blocked by the emergency. A few weeks later, vasculitis, an inflammatory process affecting the blood vessels, had taken over. And then mental confusion, memory problems, shortness of breath and very strong joint pains that continue to this day ”, says Milena.
“For weeks I was hooked on the phone in an attempt to report my situation, but the doctors replied ‘Madam, we feel that you are very ill, but in our area everything is inaccessible, we cannot help you’. I was able to carry out tests for Covid-19 only months after the onset of symptoms, towards the end of April: the swab was negative and the serological now had low antibody values. But the doctors tell me that my immune system has been upset: everything suggests that I have contracted the virus and is still paying the consequences “adds Milena, underlining:” My blood tests, for example, have reported abnormal levels of D-dimer (protein fragment that indicates an ongoing inflammatory process, found in many hospitalized patients with severe Covid-19 that is generated when a thrombus dissolves, ed) and high white blood cell values ”.
A real odyssey, that of “Long Covid” patients, in which not only the physical symptoms are burdensome, but also the psychological repercussions. On social networks there are those who confess that they feared having become a hypochondriac, until he was able to deal with people who accused his same ailments.
“Long Covid” is talked about more and more, even if the scientific path to clarify promises to be long: on the other hand, the coronavirus is a new disease and its study is a puzzle of knowledge that is composed day after day, they observe the experts.
“The important message – stated in a press release Francesco Landi, head of the post-Covid Day Hospital of the” Gemelli “and one of the authors of a research letteron “long-term” Covid patients published in Jama – is that all patients who have had Covid-19 and especially those affected by the most severe forms, who have required hospitalization in resuscitation or who have needed oxygen therapy, must undergo multi-organ controls over time. They also need to be carefully evaluated for the persistence of some symptoms. This is because – he stresses – we are facing a new, unknown disease and it is therefore important to try to identify any damage in the short or long term ”.
A recent study by French researchers from Tours University Hospital published in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection monitored 150 non-critical Covid patients (not returning from hospitalization in intensive care, as happened for other scientific studies, ed) in the period from March to June: two thirds reported symptoms up to 60 days after becoming ill and more than one third experienced illness or worse conditions than when the infection began. The most frequently reported symptoms were: loss of smell and taste, breathlessness and fatigue, found mainly in patients between the ages of 40 and 60 and in those who needed hospitalization.
At the end of July, in the USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a major US public health monitoring body, published a report on patients, even young and without pre-existing pathologies, who after passing the Covid-19 infection continue to present long-term symptoms and disorders.
Recently published, however, a report of National Institute for Health Research English, which has advanced the hypothesis that the “Long Covid” could even embrace four syndromes: that they may belong to the following conditions: post intensive therapy syndrome (PICS); viral post-fatigue syndrome (PVFS); permanent organ damage (POD); long-term Covid syndrome (LTCS).
Not just the second wave, then. The ranks of “long-term” Covid patients are growing stronger and their appeal is strong and clear: “We feel invisible. There is still little talk of our condition and too often we are looked upon with suspicion, accused of being imaginary ill. But listen to us: we need help and we need it now ”.