Migrants, Multiculture

Immigrants in Covid times: “I thought I would die”

Carlos Corredor contracted the coronavirus after travelling on public transport in London. When the fever passed 40 degrees, he thought he was going to die alone, in a foreign country and without the opportunity to say goodbye to his family. Now he is scared of contracting the virus a second time: “Someone told me it does not happen twice, but I do not want to prove if this is true or not.”

 

Carlos Corredor

Nathan Raia

 

Carlos started to feel sick in March when the pandemic was still underestimated in the United Kingdom, and he thinks that he was infected while he was travelling on the underground, from his office, on the Piccadilly line.

He saw a tourist coughing near him and he was scared from that moment. The following day he noticed a dry feeling in his mouth, an itching throat and a dry cough, the first symptoms of the disease.

Before that he had heard very little about the virus, China was too far away and even after Italy and Spain he never thought that something like that could hit him.

While visiting a friend’s house, he started to show the first symptoms. His friend made him notice that he was looking pale and his eyes were dull. Fortunately, Carlos’s friend did not show any symptoms of Covid-19, even though he didn’t get tested. Carlos’s first reaction was of shock, but his positive attitude helped him to relax and he started to think about how he was going to manage the situation. As he works in the health sector, he knows some doctors, whom he contacted.

They kept in touch and offered him their support. Since then, it was not too difficult for Carlos to reach out for help. He reported it early to the GP and called the NHS number 111, which arranged for someone to keep in touch with him.

Carlos was immediately asked to isolate and during the first days, they asked him to check his temperature regularly and to keep a record of it.

As his native language is Spanish, the NHS put him in touch with an adviser who spoke the language, was very friendly and explained everything to him.

During his sickness, he lost 12 kilos and due to the high fever, he wasn’t even able to leave his bed and he also experienced hallucinations produced by the elevated temperature.

He had a cough and breathing issues: “No air coming in this made me very anxious as I thought I was dying!”

Until the last moment, he continued hoping that the test would be negative, and that he had only common ‘flu. When his condition worsened, he was visited at his house, where the diagnosis was confirmed. He preferred to be treated in the safety of his home because he was afraid of dying in the hospital. During the visit, the doctors confirmed the diagnosis.

Throughout his isolation, he was helped by two of his closest friends who were bringing him food, and they were near by in case of an emergency, but not with him, “We all knew it was very risky to be with me!” To avoid the transmistion of the virus, Carlos’s friends used gloves and face masks, when they needed to be close to him.

At the same time, Carlos discussed his condition with some other friends who were also affected by the Coronavirus, but he was still worried that he might have died alone, far away from his family, who are currently still not aware of Carlos having had Covid-19. “They have enough to do coping with things there without adding more worries”.

Carlos’s worries came from the fact that he doesn’t have any family member living in the UK, a country he moved to more than 26 years ago, looking for a better life, a better future and freedom.

Despite the distance, he never abandoned his roots, in fact, for the past 21 years, he has been working as the Latin American services manager at NAZ sexual health for everyone, where he provides support to the most marginalized members of the Latin American community.

Carlos has always worked very hard for the community and the Coronavirus didn’t affect only him directly, but also the work he and his colleagues were doing in NAZ, because they were in contact with vulnerable people and their work is generally carried out face to face.

At first they had to stop all their work and find creative ways to keep delivering their services. They started to post rapid HIV tests kits via mail and began doing the test via WhatsApp, and now advice is offered over the phone.

More people are being given help to access newly implemented online services, emotional support and counselling services, always provided by phone.

The experience of Covid-19 had an impact on his personal, work and social life.

For instance, even four months after his recovery, he still has some very close friends who don’t want to meet him, as they believe he might still be infectious, but Carlos understands this attitude as Covid-19 is still a new threat and people still fear it.

Fortunately, they still keep in touch by phone, and all of them hope that all of this will change soon.

Otherwise, Carlos feels positive about the future, he hopes we will soon get a vaccine and go back to a normal lifestyle, “…because if we are healthy we can deal with whatever we come across, this is our Latin American survival philosophy”, he commented. Carlos warns anyone who doesn’t believe in the strength of the virus, that it is actually very real, and the experience of having it is not pleasant at all.

That’s why for him it is really important to follow the social distancing measures, especially in a country like the UK, where the risk of infection is still high and where, he thinks, the easing of the lockdown has come too early and for purely economic reasons.

“Some people are behaving in an irresponsible manner as we have been seeing in the press and it is placing everyone at risk,” he said.

From the experience of Covid-19, in his work and personal life, Carlos learnt a lot. And now he tries to see the bright side of his adventure: “It was a very hard experience for me but in a way, there was a silver lining to getting it earlier, as I am now able to provide advice in Spanish on how to manage it and especially to recommend what to do”.

(Photos supplied -and authorized for publication- by the interviewee)

 

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