Background: Research on COVID-19 has reported data on epidemiology and pathophysiology but less about what it means to be a person living through this illness. Research involving the patients’ perspectives may help to improve healthcare professionals' understanding of ways to support patients. Aims: To gain in-depth understanding of the meaning of a COVID-19 illness trajectory from the patients’ perspective. Methods: Fifteen participants who had undergone an illness trajectory due to confirmed COVID-19 infection participated in individual qualitative interviews. Data collection, analysis and interpretation were inspired by Ricoeur’s philosophy and Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception and embodiment has been applied as a theoretical frame. Findings: Being infected with coronavirus is expressed as an experience in which the participants oscillate between relief, security, imprisonment and raw fear. A predominant focus on the physical dimensions of the diseased body was found in the encounters between patient and healthcare system, and distance may furthermore be a consequence of use of protective equipment. Stigma and fear of infection were also expressed. After COVID-19, an overwhelming feeling of a door opening to freedom is perceived. However, the body is marked, and bears witness to decay from this insidious and frightening virus. The responsibility for assessing their bodily symptoms is placed with the individual patients themselves, who feel lonely and fearful and this keeps them indoors. Conclusions: During a COVID-19 illness, trajectory concerns about the unknown course of this disease are highlighted. Isolation is confrontational; however, a companionship between patients might emerge. The study shed light on an unavoidable gap between the patients and healthcare professionals due to the use protective equipment. After COVID-19, the body is labelled as something others fear and become a symbol of awe and alienation for others.
Bibliografisk noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by The Novo Nordisk Foundation (grant number NNF20SA0062831), and Centre for Cardiac, Vascular, Pulmonary and Infectious Diseases, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark.
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