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Burnaby resident frustrated by eligibility requirements for Long COVID treatment

South Burnaby resident Kayli Jamieson, a young grad student at SFU who used to find joy in dancing around her room, now has trouble climbing a flight of stairs.

Jamieson, who is double vaccinated, tested positive for COVID about two months ago, but she’s still experiencing symptoms—and she says she’s frustrated about the requirements to become eligible for post-COVID recovery treatment.

Current eligibility requirements for treatment at post-COVID recovery clinics in BC require that a person be experiencing symptoms for at least 12 weeks, have a referral from their physician, and who have a positive PCR test or serology test to confirm their COVID diagnosis. However, as Capital Daily has reported, clinics will no longer require a positive PCR test as of March 1.

One problem for Jamieson is that PCR testing had been more or less shut down for the general public in BC by the time she started feeling sick just after Christmas 2021. She waited an hour and a half to get a rapid test, and self-reported her positive result to the BCCDC, which she felt was important—because she had already heard from doctors on Twitter that BC didn’t have a formal system of recognizing a positive rapid test result.

The BCCDC’s online portal does connect your self-reported positive test to your name and personal health number, but rapid test results are not included in BC’s daily COVID case counts.

Jamieson isolated for 12 days to be extra-cautious, and when she went back to her daily business she felt more or less normal at first—with some lingering aches and pains.

“But then, from late January to now, I just felt a worsening of these new symptoms, some of which I had never had before, like hand tremors. I noticed if I tried to push myself too much in one day, like even if it just means walking around SFU more, going up more stairs, trying to run for the bus—I would get winded very easily,” she said.

“Just by the smallest things, going up the stairs in my own house, for goodness sake.”

She also experienced an onset of other symptoms like tinnitus, near-daily headaches, chest pain, overall weakness, and brain fog. That brain fog, which leads her to lose her train of thought easily, has made her work as a teaching assistant at SFU harder.

She’s also experiencing impacts to her job at Burnaby Public Library, which can include physical work at times.

“It’s really hard to get through shifts. I need to keep taking micro-breaks or I feel like I’m actually going to pass out in the middle of it. I don’t really know what to do with that, because I love the job,” Jamieson said.

The fatigue has been immense for Jamieson. She says at times, she’ll be with other people and suddenly find herself so exhausted that she needs to lie down on a couch, a bed, or sometimes even the floor. Her family is “alarmed” and concerned about her health.

And what’s more, it’s starting to impact Jamieson’s sense of self, leading to some depression and anxiety—and she says she’s started to mourn the self she’s lost, the one that was able to do fun things or even go for a long walk.

Kayli Jamieson Long COVID

Jamieson feels that all these symptoms warrant treatment—and her doctor agrees. But the problem now is that she’s still four weeks out from being eligible for treatment at BC’s post-COVID clinics.

Provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry was asked about the 12-week requirement at a press conference earlier this week; she said that it’s a common waiting period worldwide, because research shows that many people’s symptoms resolve within that time period.

Jamieson understands the 12-week requirement is based on research from around the world, but on a personal level, it’s still extremely frustrating—because it’s clear her symptoms, which are still getting worse every day, are impacting her quality of life.

“Another qualifying factor is that I’ve never been hospitalized or gone to the ER, and I don’t have ‘constant’ shortness of breath. And I haven’t stopped working. I don’t want to stop working because you know, I kind of can’t abandon my students and I kind of need the money,” she said.

“It’s a whole spectrum that longhaulers or survivors are experiencing. And because it can range to such a degree, it’s hard to target patients with a universal, standard requirement.”

Jamieson feels the risk of experiencing long-term symptoms from COVID isn’t one that’s been effectively communicated to the public by health officials, who she says instead are focused on a “rhetoric” around opening up. For the proportion of people who do contract Long COVID, she said that focus feels like a slap in the face.

Henry said earlier this week that preliminary data from the UK shows about 5-10% of people who get infected with Omicron end up experiencing long-term symptoms.

As for Jamieson, she feels like she’s won a lottery for which she never wanted to buy a ticket.

“I also keep wondering—why me? Why did this happen? None of my family got infected. … Why do I have to be in the 10%?”