• Morgan Fagg

Lockdown Voices Number 1

Diarmuid Hayes shared this incredible account on Facebook which was written by Dan Littauer which shows the sad reality of dealing with Coronavirus.

Dan beautifully describes the different and difficult stages he experienced and how he felt about it.

Let's wish Dan a speedy recovery and all those dealing with these difficulties at the moment.

I have asked Dan to be the first Lockdown Voice. Thank you Dan

"I’ve been isolating myself now since 15th of March after some friends told me they had symptoms.

Then just hours after Spain announced a state of alert and a lockdown, I started to notice the same symptoms in myself.

At first it was a rasping cough and a headache. Then I developed a fever. I wonder if I could have caught Covid-19 when the Women’s Day march happened, and I had to cross Gran Via.

As much as I am a leftie feminist, I think allowing the march was not wise given the circumstances.

On Monday night I woke in the middle of the night in a sweat; my temperature was 38.9C and I had a pain in my chest. I should explain here that I am an asthmatic so I worried that might put me in the high-risk category.

I called Madrid's COVID-19 helpline (900 102 112) and they told me someone would call me back ASAP.

Many hours pass but no one called me back.

In the morning I decided to call my GP at the health centre (centro de salud). Despite explaining that I am asthmatic, have a high temperature and feel out of breath, my GP was dismissive. I imagine that she, like all medical staff on the frontline of this crisis, are inundated in cases.

"Oh yes, that's the virus," she states matter of fact.

I ask what the next step is, expecting to be told to report somewhere for a test in order to make sure. "I'm sure," she insisted. "But we can't test you so you should isolate and take paracetamol. I'll put in on your health card (tarjeta sanitaria)."

And that's that. I'm told to “stay at home, take paracetamol and if it gets really bad, call the emergency number (112)."

Later during the day, I ran out of paracetamol, I was also low on food.

Luckily my friend Jose volunteers to leave his house and get me some and then drops it off at my door. My local pharmacist heard I was ill so she calls me on my mobile. “Hey Dan, are you ok? What are your symptoms?” I tell her and she pauses: "That doesn’t sound good, did you speak with your GP?”

I explain about the GPs advice and she seems shocked. “What about the hotline?

Did they call you back? Do you want me to call them?”

I told her that’s ok and I’ll wait, but I feel reassured at how lovely and caring people can be in a time of crisis.

Next day my GP calls me and tells me to get an x-ray at the local hospital: “just to be on the safe side”. The X-Ray reveals nothing except slight stress in the oesophagus, I am sent home, without being tested for COVID-19 as there is a shortage of test kits throughout Spain.

Over the next two days, my temperature exceeds 39.2 every day and I am beginning to feel a burning sensation in my chest and difficulty breathing. By the 22nd of March my GP calls me and tells me to get to emergency. I try to call 112 to ask for an ambulance but am told there are non-available and waiting time will be around 10 hours! I asked what am I supposed to do? And told to get a taxi.

“But I am probably infected, isn’t that irresponsible?” I ask?

“Put a mask on and gloves, we don’t have enough ambulances, so that’s your only option.”

My big worry, to be honest, is since I live alone with my little cat Yafit, what would happen to her when I am hospitalized. Thankfully, my friend Jose volunteered to come and get her and care for her.

When I get to the hospital it takes about 7 hours to be assessed. The system seems to be almost collapsed, with sick people on benches looking very sick and in suffering. Finally, I see a doctor after undergoing several tests, including the COVID-19, lung x-ray and blood test. “Mr. Littauer you are going to stay with us here in the hospital,” said the Dr. dryly. It takes them 2 more hours to find me a cubicle at the ICU, around 5am. I am given chloroquine, doxycycline and intravenous paracetamol. I am alone in the cubicle, without any visit of a doctor or nurse. I get breakfast and lunch.

At 19h, a nurse enters with my dinner and tells me I am going to be moved to the infectious diseases unit. I finally see a doctor when I arrive at my room which I share with a 76-year-old man. “Mr Littauer tomorrow we will give you some experimental antiretroviral drugs, and you’ll need to give us your consent, is that ok?” the Doctor ask. I nod yes, at this point I find it difficult to breathe and talk at the same time.

Through the night my roommate Manuel sounds like he is in massive pain, he askes me to call the nurse as he says he cannot lift his hands. When the nurse comes in she asks “what’s wrong?” Manuel jokingly tells her: “it’s nothing, I can’t breathe”, they both laughs and he is put on a ventilator.

In the morning another doctor comes in and tells me: “Mr Littauer, luckily the virus has not entered your lungs, your temperature has now dropped significantly, and your breathing has returned to normal. We do not think you are in danger anymore and you can go home and be under our supervision, we will call you every day. Alternatively, you can be sent to one of the medical hotels we have set up where you can be looked after.” I choose to go home. I get a huge list of medications, including antiretrovirals.

My roommate, Manuel looks, however much worse. Another Doctor enters and tells him something I will never forget: “Manuel, do you have family I can call to come and see you?” Manuel struggles to speak, saying: “No, I am all alone, they don’t live in Madrid, I was left here in the care home.”

“Ok Manuel, if you are going to suffer like you are now I can help you”, the doctor breathes in, with a note of sadness in his voice. “I can help you sleep for a very very long time, you won’t suffer anymore.”

Then the Dr looks at me and says: “I’m really really sorry, if you get for some reason worse, please come back here and we will do everything to take care of you.”

I am back home on the evening of the 24th of March, the next day Jose brings Yafit back home.

I am feeling better and stronger every day.

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