Friday, March 27, 2020

The Forgotten Victims of COVID-19

As news media covers and world health experts combat the COVID-19 outbreak, there is a contingent of forgotten people who are left to suffer in silence and obscurity: the hypochondriacs.

"It's really hard," says Luc (not his real name).  "I'm usally in the ER two or three times a week because the tip of my nose is numb and I get headaches, and I just don't feel really good..."  He trails off, stares out the window of his rented room.  "But there's the fear."

It's a common thread among hypochondriacs -- fear of contracting an actual ailment by visiting the local hospital emergency room.  Under normal circumstances, it's a risk they are willing to take.  Since the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, many are rethinking their ER visit schedules.

"It's hard," says Giselle (not her real name).  "I feel really, really... strange.  You know?  In my hands, and then the sensation moves up into my neck.  Sometimes I have to blink my eyes a few times to get them clear."  Giselle dabs her eyes with a tissue.  "What am I supposed to do?"

Federal and provincial governments have asked citizens to self-isolate, and to practice "social distancing" when in public.  News stories about hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases abound, as do stories of medical staff running low or completely out of supplies, such as masks, gowns and gloves.  Hospitals are soliciting donations from the public.

In the rush to treat the ever rising tide of COVID-19 cases, a major constituency of the medical landscape has been shunted aside -- the hypochondriacs who ordinarily populate the nation's ER waiting rooms with minor coughs, non-specific-non-life-threatening aches and pains, general malaise, minor rashes, strange taste in the mouth, a click in the shoulder when it's moved in a particular way.  The list of imaginary ailments is as varied as the hypochondriacs themselves.

One of the unforeseen consequences of the public anxiety surrounding COVID-19 is that the nation's ERs are much less busy.

"People are stressed," says Roda (not her real name).  "I don't want to go into my local ER, tell them my hair hurts and then get a fatal disease like coronavitis!"  She dabs her eyes with a tissue.  "So, if I want to stay alive, I have to stay away from the hospital!  That's so sick!  That's so backwards!"

At the time of publication, there is no word of an aid package for the nation's hypochondriacs by the federal government.

"We're left to fend for ourselves," says Xander (not his real name).  "Nobody cares.  It's like we don't exist."

There is talk in certain communities, among local activists, of opening faux clinics staffed by actors and volunteers to service the hypochondriacs, but currently efforts are hampered by self-isolation and social distancing orders.

In this time of need, spare a thought for those who believe they are afflicted.

1 comment:

AlwaysSickJohnny said...

Finally, us hypochondriacs have our say!!! Thanks to the Factory for making sure our voices are heard!!