When Dr. Anne Perrier fell ill with COVID-19 in late 2020, she did not anticipate how much the infection would affect her life more than a year later.
Since then, the 46-year-old has suffered from a heart infection, severe fatigue and still has trouble breathing.
Even talking is difficult. Speaking slowly, often pausing for several seconds to catch her breath, Behri explained how injecting Botox into the area of her vocal cords made having a conversation a little easier — but the longer the conversation took, the more she struggled.
“If I pay a little, I’ll stay in my bed for days, I won’t even be able to think,” she said in an interview with CBC News outside her Montreal home.
This list of debilitating symptoms means she has yet to return to work as a family and palliative care physician, leaving other healthcare professionals to care for her patients.
“I know how much my co-workers are suffering and confused,” she said in a cracking voice. “Everyone is tired.”
A recent study from Quebec indicates that many health care workers are also grappling with the life-altering effects of COVID — which can jeopardize their ability to work while putting pressure on the health care system, researchers say.
Survey of 6,000 healthcare workers
search, that is posted on the Internet But not yet peer-reviewed, it has found a significant prevalence of post-COVID health issues among health care workers who contracted the disease during the pandemic’s first three waves.
Researchers surveyed 6000 of the more than 17,000 confirmed cases among health care workers in Quebec between July 2020 and May 2021. This was done along with a randomly selected control group of other health care workers who had symptoms, But they did not show positive symptoms. for the virus.
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The researchers found that 40 percent of those who did not need hospitalization because of their illness reported having long-term health problems after three months, along with nearly 70 percent of those who required a hospital stay.
“With so many health care workers infected since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the continuing effects on quality health care delivery could be profound if cognitive dysfunction and other acute symptoms persist after COVID in a way that leads to occupational disability for a longer term,” he wrote. research team.
“I can’t even talk”
Lead author Dr Gaston de Serres, a medical epidemiologist at the National General Institute in Quebec, said many of those surveyed reported having cognitive problems such as memory problems, difficulty concentrating, or routinely misplacing essential objects in their work or daily life.
“And these cognitive impairments for professionals working in the health care system may be very important to the performance of their duties,” he added.
These are the issues LeeAnn Daponte now knows about on a daily basis. Daponte, a registered nurse at a Toronto-area hospital, tested positive last September. She described it as a “total dread” moment as she wondered what she might have passed on to her young, unvaccinated children and her immunocompromised husband.
But after a difficult initial illness, more concern emerged when Daponte’s initial symptoms developed into a prolonged COVID.
She now struggles with feelings of extreme fatigue, brain fog — forgetting words in the middle of a conversation or what you’re doing in the middle of a task — and shortness of breath.
“I finally went back to the emergency department after six months and multiple attempts,” she said. “But I am unable to work more than eight hours. My voice is going to go as if I have laryngitis. So at the end of the day, I can’t even speak.”
A ‘clear need’ for better treatments
There is a paucity of data on how many people around the world have long-term COVID-19, especially given the lack of testing at the start of the pandemic, but most estimates put it in 10 to 30 percent of cases – fewer than the results have been found. At the three-month mark in the Quebec study.
De Serres noted that the symptoms experienced by many of the health care workers surveyed were not always severe. The research was also conducted before most of the participants were vaccinated against COVID-19.
However, he said, the team was surprised to see such a high percentage of respondents with persistent symptoms. De Serres added that there is a “clear need” for better long-term COVID treatments to be discovered because these types of health effects can affect a person’s well-being and ability to function.
Dr. Angela Cheung, a longtime COVID researcher from the University Health Network in Toronto, is among those working to do so. Throughout the pandemic, she said, she has treated a lot of health care workers, from doctors to nurses to allied health professionals, many of whom are starting to improve over time.
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However, like De Serres, she is concerned about the impact of long-term health issues on a core workforce already under pressure.
“I would suggest coordinating efforts across the country, setting up specialist clinics, so that they are cared for, but also so that we can better understand them,” she said.
Back in Montreal, Bhéreur is working hard to fully recover so she can return to caring for her patients, rather than just being one.
She knows it will take more time to get there, as she needs to take breaks and rest even after doing simple tasks like walking a short distance.
“In a ward or clinic, it’s not something I can do, or my colleagues can do, in the midst of the action,” she said.