Long COVID | “He was never the boy he was again”

After eight months of dealing with the long COVID, Virginie Gagnon is struggling to “find her normal life.” The latter tries to make known that her 13-year-old son, struggling with “the worst headaches” of his life, also suffers from this disease. If the syndrome is still poorly defined, it exists and can affect teens, says one expert.

Florence Morin-Martel

Florence Morin-Martel

January 20, 2021. Virginie Gagnon’s son Thomas has returned from school, in “great shape” and happy to be back on the school benches for a week. Around 7:30 pm, everything changed. “He was gray, I had never seen a complexion like this,” says the mother. Concerned about the drop in pressure and the dizziness suffered by the teenager, the family went to see several doctors.

“They didn’t take us seriously,” Ms. Gagnon recalls. Some said it was psychological, that he himself created symptoms. At that point, Thomas’s mother called the COVID-19 line to find out if a screening test was needed. “They said it had nothing to do with the symptoms of the virus,” says Virginie Gagnon.

About ten days later, she began to feel symptoms herself. After taking a drug test, the result came out: he had contracted COVID-19. ” The next day [vendredi], I lost my sense of smell. On Saturday, in 15 minutes, I could no longer breathe, “he says.

The following months were painful for Virginie Gagnon, who was put on sick leave due to persistent symptoms. Her son had to be absent from school for two months. Hospitalized twice in February, the latter was finally diagnosed with post-viral fatigue. According to specialists still following the adolescent, this condition is “in the process of becoming chronic,” reports Ms Gagnon.

“That is going to take time.”

Although she was unable to test her son, the mother believes that he suffers from post-COVID syndrome like her. Too many things remain unexplained, he argues. “Two months after being sick, he had a fever for a month,” he says.

Virginie Gagnon maintains that the pediatrician refuses to utter the words “COVID long” but still compares her son’s condition with hers.

« [La pédiatre] He tells me that for Thomas, it will take as long as me to recover, ”says Ms. Gagnon.

Little known, this disease is defined by symptoms that persist for weeks after a primary infection, explains André Veillette, professor of medicine and director of the Molecular Oncology Research Unit at the Montreal Institute of Clinical Research. Based on available data, long-term COVID would affect children less than adults.

This disease would affect almost 30% of the people who were not hospitalized during their COVID-19, underlines Alain Piché, microbiologist-specialist in infectious diseases at CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS. If these studies come from abroad, “there is no reason to believe that the prevalence is different in Quebec.”

At the Sainte-Justine Hospital, a multidisciplinary team cares for patients with possible symptoms of this disease, explains Valérie Lamarre, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases. “Certainly there are many more adolescents who are not well due to the living conditions of the last 18 months than adolescents who have suffered from COVID for a long time,” he says. Deciding between the two is a great challenge. ”

“I don’t know if I’ll get there”

Today, Thomas is starting to climb the hill, but he still lives with “the worst headaches” of his life, in addition to experiencing great fatigue and having trouble concentrating. “He was never the child he was again,” laments his mother.

He’s better, but has COVID-19-related post-traumatic shock. She is afraid of getting sick and lives with the guilt of giving it to me.

Virginie Gagnon, about her son Thomas

For her part, Virginie Gagnon is trying to get back to her normal life. “I don’t know if I’ll get there,” he breathes. The latter, previously in excellent health, now lives with heart and lung problems. “I’m coughing hard to get my lungs out,” he adds.

Virginie Gagnon is puzzled by the opposition to wearing masks in schools. “Living with the guilt of having infected a father who is still sick and who is about to die, for a son, is much more traumatic,” he stresses.

While little has been known about COVID for a long time, André Veillette maintains that it will be “pandemic after pandemic.” “There will be people who have had COVID-19 and who are going to be hit,” he explains, pointing out the possible medical, social and economic problems derived from this situation. “Every infected person runs the risk of developing [ce syndrome] », Warns the latter.

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