Dying to Work

I almost died from being septic from covid twice.

The first time I was still working, despite having covid.

My doctors sent me home with a restriction to not work until I was symptomatically free. The doctors supported my continuing to work, but made it very clear that if symptoms started, work must stop. Having covid was like being on a roller coaster. You could be fine one moment, and the next, you could be in the ER.

I’m not surprised people are being required to work or are dying while trying, like the professor in the article below. One weekend, my covid symptoms had gotten extremely severe and my doctor told me I need to stop working immediately. I emailed my boss and told him I needed the week off and provided the doctor’s note. Despite our company policy to support time off and my doctors restriction, I was pinged by my boss two days later with a complex deliverable that was demanded of me to complete by end of the day.

I verbally argued my case–I even told him that him demanding me to work against my physician’s orders was illegal. He told me if I didn’t do the assignment I wouldn’t like the result or impact on my job or end of year review. In the end, I felt like I had no choice for the security of my job and to keep my employer sponsored healthcare. Healthcare I knew I would desperately need to keep me alive with this then, much unknown, pandemic virus.

I did this project while laying on the ground next to the toilet, throwing up from the nausea and the pulsating headache. My vision was blurred from the pressure building inside my head. I cried the whole time I was working from the pain. My staff asked me why the hell I was working while I was so sick with covid. I spoke with HR but nothing was really done. The next day, I ended up back in the ER. My doctor told me the added stress to my body pushed me septic. I was forced out onto medical leave after this happened.

Stories like this are sadly real, both in the US and internationally. I didn’t realize how real until my doctor later told me that she was concerned that I was going to literally die from the added stress my working environment was creating while by body was trying to fight covid. My doctor supports me returning to work part time and says that the routine, close relationships with colleagues, and purpose is good for me, but that she still holds these concerns because the stressors haven’t fundamentally changed despite the fact that I am still fighting to recover post covid.

Doctors don’t know how this virus will affect long haulers over time. Long haulers are told to avoid and limit stress because of the damage covid does to the vascular and endocrine systems. Most long haulers have hypertension and crazy blood pressure even while sitting. Long haulers have anxiety surges from cortisol, the fight or flight hormones, surging through their bodies. Doctors aren’t sure if this is due to a physical change in the body, from covid induced PTSD, or both, but in either case, it puts tremendous, life threatening stress on covid and post covid bodies.

Our society needs to reevaluate how we will support and adapt our culture in order to support the millions of covid survivors who will be battling long hauler recovery for the unforeseen future.


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