Globe, Migrants, Multiculture, United Kingdom

Immigrants in Covid times: “No one helped me”

What seemed to be the typical immigrant dream coming true, turned into a nightmare with the pandemic. Jessica  contracted the Coronavirus in the United Kingdom, did not receive help from the NHS, suffered everything in solitude and almost died in her room.  The virus stayed in her body for almost three months. Today the fear does not leave her.  

 

Jessica

Nathan Raia

 

In 2018, as a consequence of the fact that in her hometown in Italy she couldn’t find a stable and decently paid job, she decided to give up everything and try her luck elsewhere. Thus, she landed in England and after having worked in a coffee shop, she was hired as an assistant manager in a bakery in London.

Jessica finally had a permanent contract and the financial security that she didn’t have before.

She had few worries and life went by without major hitches until Covid-19 became part of her life…  part of everyone’s life.

Indeed, the first thing was the overcrowding in the shops because people thought that food and groceries were going to end in case of a lockdown. And the bakery where she works was no exception.

Also during those days the place was crowded with residents and tourists, and the employees weren’t adequately protected. In fact, one of her co-workers suffered from a strange flu but they never confirmed whether it was Covid or not.

And, while it is true that the use of gloves was mandatory because the different products had to be served to customers, they did not wear masks. But Jessica, who had Italy as a painful example, from the beginning, since February, began to follow the safety guidelines, washed her hands frequently, used a mask and respected social distancing.

One day in mid-March, while she was at home alone before going to work, she began to feel weak and completely drained. At the time, her first thought was that it was simply a bad day, but she couldn’t imagine that she would feel so bad the next day.

In fact, the following morning, she woke up with a high fever, cough, muscle and chest pains, diarrhoea, breathing problems and also, she had completely lost her sense of taste and smell.

Her first thought was to call the NHS on the 111 line to make sure she hadn’t contracted the virus, but in response, they just told her to stay calm, take paracetamol, drink hot tea and self-isolate for seven days.

Like many other immigrants living in London, Jessica lives without her family, who have remained in Italy, her native country. So, she found herself practically alone coping with the pandemic and her sickness, having only her flatmates helping her, preparing food and taking care of the grocery.

Although Jessica was following the medical recommendations, her symptoms were getting worse day by day, so she decided to call the NHS one more time, but she was given the exact same answer.

Furthermore, when she asked to take the test to see if she was positive to Covid-19 or not, she was told that there were no tests available and that it was certainly a common flu, anyway. After that, she had no other information and was left alone, without any other kind of help or support, to deal with the Coronavirus.

But she knew that it was not a simple flu, in fact, even taking paracetamol the fever was rising again within an hour, the cough was strange and the pain was very strong. She had never felt so bad from a simple flu.

Although the medical recommendation was to self-isolate for only a week, she preferred to remain in total isolation, inside her room, for 14 consecutive days. And in any case, she felt so bad that she couldn’t do otherwise. In fact, her temperature dropped only after seven days and her cough subsided after 15.

Over time, her health gradually improved, the nightmare was ending, or so she thought. On May 22nd, due to a serious family situation, she had to travel urgently to Italy.

Until that moment, Jessica’s family was not aware that she had been ill and, although two months had passed since her recovery, she had not yet recovered her taste or smell.

Fortunately, her aunt is a nurse in the Covid ward in Reggio Calabria and after learning about Jessica’s sickness, convinced her to take a nasopharyngeal swab (PCR test). One night she received one of the worst phone calls of her life. They called her from the hospital to inform her that the swab had given a positive result, she was affected by Covid-19.

From that moment on, her second isolation began, this time lasting 20 days. All she could do was wait and swab every week until she got two negatives in a row.

Unfortunately, the danger had not yet passed as her father is immunodeficient and since she was living with them the risk of him contracting the virus was real. However, even though the virus was still in Jessica’s body, her viral load was so low that it posed no threat and no one in her family was infected.

This whole long and painful experience, in which she experienced loneliness, pain and situations in her body she had never imagined, left her in a lot of fear.

Fear of people and fear of contracting the virus again, because she did not receive any real help. But she knows that she cannot live in fear all her life.

Jessica is not the only one to be afraid, in fact, many people, when they learn that she had been affected by Covid-19, change their attitude towards her, they are afraid of her as if she could still be a threat to their health. This hurts her and she finds it very disrespectful.

Regarding everything that Covid means, she thinks that peoples’ attitude is irresponsible and that it is still too early to relax the restrictive measures. She also thinks that no-one should joke about it because people die from Covid and it’s extremely important to protect ourselves every time we go out, using the masks in the correct way and maintaining social distancing.

Her experience with Covid, taught her that “life can be a moment and you have to fully enjoy it, making positive experiences.” Beyond that, the only advice Jessica feels like giving to those who have symptoms of Coronavirus is to get tested immediately, now that tests are available.

Unfortunately, she does not feel like offering any other advice, in fact, she believes that she was lucky to survive and does not even know how this could have happened, since she did not receive adequate treatment.

At the moment she is still on leave, but she will return to work soon and hopes that with the obligations imposed by the government for the protection of workers, things will be different and safer now.

(Photos: Pixabay)

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