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Canada Sick with COVID-19: 'I felt like my organs were cooking from the inside'

09:55  27 march  2020
09:55  27 march  2020 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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a person standing in front of a window: Melanie Fournier, who has been sick with COVID-19 for the past week, at her home in Dollard-Des-Ormeaux, west of Montreal, on March 26, 2020. © John Mahoney Melanie Fournier, who has been sick with COVID-19 for the past week, at her home in Dollard-Des-Ormeaux, west of Montreal, on March 26, 2020.

Melanie Fournier doesn’t know how she caught COVID-19.

The 42-year-old Dollard-des-Ormeaux resident works in health and social services. She was taking all the recommended precautions, practising social distancing, and she hadn’t travelled.

“I work with youth and families,” Fournier said on the phone Thursday from her home, where she is under self-quarantine. “We were asked to go into the office, but because of the protocols in place I hadn’t seen any clients in two weeks.”

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Her ordeal began a week ago.

“Thursday night I was perfectly fine,” she said. “I felt probably the healthiest I have ever felt in my entire life. The next day, I woke up and felt a tickle in my throat. I coughed a bit, then 20 minutes later I had full fever. I started hacking and coughing, I couldn’t breathe. It happened so fast.”

Fournier tried to pull herself together.

“I thought: OK, I work in health services. I’ve been trained. I have all the numbers. I know what to do.”

She called 811 and the 1-877 number Quebec has set up, but couldn’t get through. She spent hours on hold before finally talking to someone. Then Fournier had to convince them she should get tested — since she hadn’t travelled, she didn’t meet the official criteria.

“I said: ‘I know I’m sick (with coronavirus).’ I have all the symptoms. I have a family member who is immuno-compromised — a daughter with special needs. I argued for half an hour before they said OK and put me on the list to get tested.”

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Fournier got a spot Saturday evening at a new testing clinic in Beaconsfield and was impressed by the efficiency. Social distancing protocols were respected and she was in and out in 20 minutes.

It would be another 48 hours before Fournier got the results. Meanwhile, she was feeling worse and worse.

“I was so sick already,” she said. “You’re mentally preparing yourself — you kind of figure (you have it). I had never been so sick in my life.”

Fournier’s phone rang Monday evening. Getting confirmation she did indeed have COVID-19 hit her like a ton of bricks.

“I felt like I had just been given a death sentence,” she said. “I had tears. All these things were racing in my head: Did I infect somebody? Because I’m sick, is somebody else going to get it? Will I die? Will they die? Are my kids going to get it? I was really scared (of dying). That was the first thing in my head. I thought: Oh my god, I need to make arrangements.”

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Luckily, Fournier’s daughter, who is 19, was at her father’s home when Fournier got sick. But Fournier’s two sons, ages 15 and 18, are with her in the apartment. Amazingly, they haven’t developed any symptoms.

Fournier has been wearing surgical gloves when in common areas and wiping down everything she touches. At the same time, she has been trying to hold herself together. The night after she got the news was perhaps the worst of the week.

“I thought I was going to die,” Fournier said. “I woke up and I wasn’t feeling well. I took my temperature and it was 41.1. I felt like my organs were cooking from the inside. It was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I went into the shower, but kept my clothes on. I didn’t want my kids to see me (naked) if I passed out.

“I sat in the tub, trying to get my fever down. I was scared to call 911. I know I should have, but if I went to the hospital, who was going to take care of my kids? I was scared to leave the house because I didn’t know when I would come back.”

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Fournier made it through that night and the nights since. Her symptoms fluctuate. Sometimes she feels pretty good, other times not so much.

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“It’s been mostly a lot of really high fever,” she said. “The day, I could be fine; but come 6 p.m., the fever starts. I sweat all night and take Tylenol every four hours. It doesn’t help, but I still take it. My whole body is hurting, like I’ve been hit by a bus. I have no energy.

“I could barely move sometimes and the pain in my lungs is excruciating. I’m not coughing a lot, but just to breathe in and out is like shards of glass in my lungs and knives in my back. No matter what position I lie in, there’s no relief.”

A nurse called this week and told Fournier not to worry about her fever, but to call 911 if she’s having difficulty breathing. As bad as it has been, Fournier is happy to report she’s feeling a little better every day.

“I don’t have a headache now, which is amazing,” she said. “Certain symptoms are going away. I did lose a lot of weight — seven pounds this week. But now I’m hopeful. I hope I’m out of the danger zone and I’m on the mend. I’m at the point where I need to do something to help other people. I’ve been through it. I don’t think anybody should have to go through this alone. It’s really scary.”

Fournier signed up for a double-blind study of medication for COVID-19 by the Heart Institute and Université de Montréal. She has been sharing her experience on a Facebook COVID-19 community group and has appreciated the messages of support she has received. She would like to see support groups for people with coronavirus. The worst part of the illness has been the isolation, she explained, and the fear.

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“I’ve been reaching out to people, letting them know that although it’s scary a lot of people do get out of it,” she said. “Not everybody dies. I tried to focus on that (this week) and I think that’s the message that really needs to be put out there. It’s horrible, it’s really bad, but a lot of people do come out of it.”

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Both parents have COVID-19. The challenge now is to keep their boys healthy .
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