July 20, 2024

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Singularly remarkable health

My experience battling COVID-19

Please note: This article contains some content that our readers may find distressing.

It all started in early February when the SARS-CoV-2 virus reached Italy. At the beginning, it was underestimated by everyone, and politicians claimed it was a normal flu, inviting people to come out with the motto, “Italy does not stop.” A few days later, they would realize they had made a very serious mistake.

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On March 10th, when I returned from a holiday in Trentino, I developed a fever. It was not very high, about 100.04°F, and, following the guidelines of the Ministry, I reported myself to the toll-free number set up by the region and requested a swab to check if I had contracted COVID-19.

I didn’t receive the test because I have not been in a ‘red zone,’ and I was not certain that I had been in close contact with people who had tested positive for the virus.

Over the phone, they told me to check my temperature and symptoms, but that I shouldn’t warn the people I had been in contact with, in case I caused them panic. I was told I could do this later if the symptoms became worse.

The next day in Italy, the lockdown started. Offices and shops were forced to close, and nobody could leave the house without a valid reason and self-certification; any kind of meeting was forbidden, and proximity to elderly people was not recommended.

The virus hit hard. There were thousands dead in the north, and the epidemic seemed to be out of control. Streets were deserted and people left the supermarkets empty. It really seemed like war, and for many older people, this situation evoked terrible memories.

In a short time, the symptoms disappeared, but psychologically, I suffered a lot from the condition as I was unable to go out, see my friends, or visit my parents.

I had to reorganize my whole life, the way I work, and the way I relate with others. I was also unsure that I would still have a job at the end of lockdown, and this scared me a lot. Everything was changing so quickly, and all my certainties were wavering.

Around March 20th, my father sickened. He had a fever and was in a state of confusion. My mother, who is visually impaired and very dependent on him, was suffering from panic.

Until that moment, I had never visited them because I knew they were at high risk due to their age, but since I could not leave them alone with my father in such conditions, I was forced to go there. My wife and my son came with me.

I called the reporting number again to urgently request the swab for my father, but they refused it. I didn’t know what to do, the virus had blocked the country, and anything, even the most trivial task, was now complicated.

With great difficulty, I found a doctor who came to the house. My father had bronchitis, and he was prescribed with antibiotics. He felt very tired and didn’t want to eat. For all of us, the situation was so hard.

Finally, the fever stopped, and my father got better for a day, even though he continued to feel very tired.

On March 24th, he woke up with very strong pain in his lower abdomen. We thought that it was an intestinal blockage, and we called the doctor again, but it was useless. The pain didn’t decrease.

I spent the night with him, massaging his back and belly, hoping to relieve his suffering. I had to make a decision, the fear of taking him to the hospital was so big given the situation, but at home, I wouldn’t know how to handle it.

On the morning of March 25th, I took him to the emergency room. That’s the last time I saw him.

They called us from the hospital saying that CT scans showed an intestinal perforation and interstitial pneumonia from COVID-19 and that the situation was very serious.

The following days were a nightmare. The lockdown didn’t allow us to visit him, and, moreover, having been in contact with him, we were in compulsory quarantine. From that moment on, we could no longer go out even to shop or throw out the garbage.

These were very difficult days.

On the one hand, the concern for my father’s health and the frustration of not being able to visit or hear him; on the other, the fear for the health of my family.

Given the real possibility of being infected, I tried again to get the swab, but since we were asymptomatic, they denied it to us that time too.

I was afraid, and I didn’t know what to expect. This virus can remain silent for days and then suddenly burst. I was afraid for my loved ones and myself.

I took immunosuppressants for autoimmune disease, and this could make things worse. My mother is 82 years old, and we were both at high risk. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t swab us.

I tried to filter some bad news arriving from the hospital about my father’s health with my mother, for her not to be worried too much, but at the same time, I didn’t want to create false illusions. Seeing her suffer made me sick.

The only lights were my wife, who had been very close to me, and my son, who filled the house with joy and happiness.

March 28th was my son’s birthday, he had waited so long for it, and he would have liked to do it at the zoo with his friends, but we found ourselves locked in the house with the terror that my father would die that very day.

It was a hectic time, but in the end, we managed to organize a live party with his friends via Zoom and ordered him presents online. For a moment, we forgot everything and dedicated ourselves to him.

Another 9 days passed by, and there were only 2 days left until the end of our quarantine.

I wanted to go out, as I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore, but I needed to get my immunosuppressant shot. If I was positive it could cost me my life, I was afraid and tried again to request the swab. In the end, I got it, but only for me and my mother.

In the meantime, my father got worse, and on April 7th at 1:30 a.m., I received a call from the hospital saying that, unfortunately, he had passed away. The world collapsed on me.

I didn’t know what to do anymore. My point of reference was gone. I felt lost, desperate, and, as if that wasn’t enough, I was the one who had to communicate it to my mother and my brother.

That morning was endless. We were stuck at home, we had just suffered a very serious mourning, and I was forced to solve all the bureaucratic things, as soon as possible, because the hospital couldn’t keep the corpse of a COVID-19 patient for long.

I called my brother, and we tried to figure out what to do since the rules imposed by the Ministry at the funeral establish that only three people can attend. Furthermore, there was no possibility to respect the Jewish religious rite.

My mother and I were still in quarantine, and we couldn’t attend the funeral. At that moment, the only person who was able to go was my brother, my cousin, and a friend who accompanied him. My mother and my family attended the funeral via Zoom.

The situation was really surreal, and I felt like I was living in a nightmare. By the way, on the day of the funeral, they were supposed to come home to swab us, and I was terrified that they could arrive during the service. Thankfully, they arrived later.

They showed up at our house with an ambulance and started preparing themselves. They put two overalls on top of each other, shoe covers, two pairs of gloves, hoods, visors, and masks, and headed towards our apartment before the incredulous eyes of neighbors from other condominiums.

They rang the door and told us to go out to the ground floor, against all privacy, to swab us. We felt dirty.

In the meantime, the quarantine was over, but we had to wait for the results of the swab to come out in 3 days’ time. I was positive, and my mom was negative.

At that point, they had to come and swab my wife and son. I got another one for my mother too. She was positive at that time, too, while the rest of the family was negative, so we decided, for their own safety, to send them to another place to pass the quarantine.

It was a difficult decision because, without my wife and son, the house is empty and silent.

I am tired and stressed. More than the virus, what really kills me is this forced confinement and the lack of affection from my loved ones and friends.

One evening, maybe because of stress, I was struck by colic. The pain was very strong, and my mother was in panic.

I wanted to call an ambulance but, being positive, they would take me to a COVID center, and my mother would stay alone, and I didn’t feel like it.

Luckily, I was able to calm the pain, but the idea of not being able to get sick, not being able to call a doctor, and not being able to go to the pharmacy because I’m positive is very distressing; it’s like being in a science fiction movie.

In order to be considered not contagious anymore, one must have two consecutive negative swabs.

On May 3rd, I made my first negative swab. Unfortunately, the second one on May 5th was positive again, and I had to stay at home for another 15 days.

In the end, on May 20th, after two negatives swabs, I was finally free! The quarantine was over, and I could go out again! It was a really strange feeling, and I felt like I was free after a long period in jail.

Now, I’m back to normal life again, although nothing is normal anymore.

The schools are still closed, and the kids miss their friends. They have difficulties in adapting to this new situation. The shops and the restaurant are often empty, and the people look to each other in a different way.

This experience has marked me a lot, and I miss the little things I did every day.

We believe we live in a society ready for anything, but a virus was enough to bring a country to its knees and deprive people of the most important things they have: the love of their loved ones, freedom, and physical contact with the people they love.

After the arrival of the virus, everything has changed, and I really don’t know if we can go back to normal, to the world we used to know.

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