17 years old - Rang, France
Lucie’s story begins in March of 2020, the 12th to be exact. At this point, President
Emmanuel Macron had just announced that France would be on lockdown. Despite these orders, Lucie’s school brought all the students together in one room to announce that COVID-19 was nothing but a mild cold, nothing to be concerned about. Following this gathering of students, she began to feel incredibly fatigued, and experienced severe headaches. She consulted with her primary care physician, who advised her to take ibuprofen for the pain. Lucie began to have a gray complexion, and had difficulty breathing, but was refused access to a COVID-19 test. When she began to lose her sense of taste and smell, she pressed further for serological testing, but was told that they were “pretty sure” she had COVID-19 and testing would be a waste. For 3 weeks, Lucie did not leave her room. Venturing outside of it was incredibly difficult, as her fevers came and went. Eventually, though the fatigue persisted, her symptoms began to fade.
In May of 2020, Lucie woke up at 1am in excruciating pain, and she lost consciousness. Near 8am, her extremities turned blue, she had bloody stool, and decided to call an ambulance. Upon arrival to the hospital, Lucie notes that her case was not taken seriously and that she was told to return the next time she experienced an episode of this sort. In June 2020, she consulted with a gastroenterologist for her persisting pain and bloody stools, and underwent an ultrasound of the appendix, gastric endoscopy, and a colonoscopy.
At this point, Lucie was able to get a COVID test, but it was too far removed from her initial infection to be positive. She began to have difficulty breathing in September of 2020, which was followed by an Xray of her lungs. In February of 2021, she had another painful episode in which her parents found her on the floor. After consulting with her doctor, she was told that teenagers can sometimes feel excruciating pain without any reason. After consulting with a different physician, she was prescribed a gut antispasmodic that left her unable to speak normally for the next 24 hours. A blood test revealed elevated liver enzymes and CRP.
After yet another episode of pain so intolerable she could not speak or walk, Lucie was prescribed intravenous antibiotics. After an electrocardiogram was performed at the hospital, Lucie’s cardiologist spoke to her about Long Covid. Speaking with various other specialists, Lucie wanted to rule out the possibility that she had an MIS-C reaction to the vaccine. After a rash, post exertional malaise, attention trouble, and overall fragility, she learned that she had severe deconditioning because of the time spent unwell, and that she was in an incredibly weakened state. Lucie missed the last few weeks of school before Christmas in order to participate in physical and respiratory therapy.
Lucie still finds herself fatigued and breathless. Because she contracted COVID before vaccines were available, she never got vaccinated out of fear that she might somehow worsen her symptoms. She feels stigmatized and judged for this, and notes that she and her family are completely in favor of vaccination, always opting to err on the side of science. She recalls being told by medical professionals throughout her illness, “well, do you see why you need a vaccine now?” and she feels immense guilt surrounding the subject. She fears catching the Omicron variant because of her unvaccinated status, and hopes to find a physician who can help her determine the best course of action given her current state.
Lucie went back to school two days ago, and says that when she returns home after the school day, she has debilitating fatigue. She felt incredibly hopeful when she met with her new doctor this week, but before she could finish explaining her story, she was told to stop dramatizing her situation and look ahead rather than continuing to search for symptoms. Lucie was dismissed, judged, and not offered the standard of care or empathy she so desperately needed.
Lucie is afraid that her peers don’t believe her, since she has days where her symptoms are less bad, and others when she is completely incapacitated. She is always exhausted, which is frustrating on an intellectual and athletic level. She feels as though she needs to choose between her health and her baccalauriat exam.
One hour from her home, there is a center for Long Covid, where professionals work tirelessly to try and solve the mysteries of this illness. This gives Lucie hope for her future, and the future of all the other teenagers she knows to be afflicted with long haul COVID-19.