Liv­ing with coro­n­avirus is a ‘night­mare’

Para­medic with dis­ease urges any­one with symp­toms to get tested

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Lo­cal - GRANT LAFLECHE

NOTE TO READ­ERS: As the com­mu­nity grap­ples with the COVID-19 pan­demic, there are those who keep other peo­ple safe and keep es­sen­tial ser­vices run­ning, in­clud­ing doc­tors and nurses, gro­cery store clerks and garbage col­lec­tors. These are their sto­ries from the front line of Ni­a­gara’s bat­tle with the novel coro­n­avirus.

A Ni­a­gara para­medic who tested pos­i­tive for the po­ten­tially deadly COVID-19 virus is ask­ing any­one who has even mild symp­toms re­lated to the in­fec­tion to call pub­lic health for an as­sess­ment.

“Go­ing for­ward I ad­vo­cate for any­one who is sick to get checked no mat­ter how mi­nor their symp­toms,” said the para­medic, who has asked not to be iden­ti­fied by name. “No one should have to suf­fer this.”

The para­medic, an 11-year vet­eran of Ni­a­gara Emer­gency Med­i­cal Ser­vices, tested pos­i­tive for the virus the first week of April and be­came a vec­tor for the virus to spread with­out real­iz­ing it.

“I un­know­ingly ex­posed my fam­ily even be­fore I had symp­toms and spent the day with my kids when I was at my worst,” the para­medic told The St. Catharines Stan­dard. “I had symp­toms that weren’t ob­vi­ously COVID-19: the worst headache ever — I felt as though a knife was go­ing through my brain with each loud noise — and a scratchy throat, al­most like al­ler­gies.”

The para­medic has been in iso­la­tion for two weeks since the on­set of symp­toms, but is still on the road to re­cov­ery.

“It took nearly 12 hours to de­velop a low-grade fever which only lasted six hours, thank­fully, be­cause the body aches were much worse than the reg­u­lar in­fluenza. I rarely coughed, and was never short of breath.

“Nearly 12 days in I am still tired on a daily ba­sis, but oth­er­wise asymp­to­matic. I was a truly lucky per­son with this in­fec­tion — I know that other friends have had days of fevers and aches, cough­ing un­til they can’t breathe and GI (gas­troin­testi­nal) symp­toms that don’t let up. “It is a night­mare.”

The para­medic said COVID-19 in­fec­tion con­trol mea­sures “took over” the lives of Ni­a­gara EMS op­er­a­tives, whose jobs place them at po­ten­tial risk of ex­po­sure on ev­ery call they an­swer. De­spite the pre­cau­tions, the para­medic con­tracted the virus.

“It came home un­ex­pect­edly with me. De­spite PPE, hand wash­ing, truck ster­il­iz­ing post­call, chang­ing clothes im­me­di­ately and laun­der­ing on hot, and leav­ing boots at work, it snuck in.”

The para­medic in­ter­acts with fam­ily “with a mask at all times and I wash my hands un­til they are raw.”

“My chil­dren tell me they love me even though I have the virus and are fi­nally past wor­ry­ing that their par­ent is go­ing to die. Through this we have seen a great out­pour­ing of car­ing — co­work­ers have been amaz­ing and lo­cal friends have gone above and be­yond (by) drop­ping off fresh gro­ceries, small presents for kids for their birth­day, buy­ing us din­ner, etc.”

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