Ramiro: Uninsured & Diagnosed with COVID-19

When COVID-19 arrived in Arlington, Ramiro held his breath as the news got bleaker with each passing week. Thankfully, the restaurant where he worked as a line cook was able to stay afloat. He had a job and a paycheck coming in — at the risk of going out into the community every day to prepare food in the close quarters of a commercial kitchen — but what choice did he have?

In July, he started feeling tired and experiencing nausea and bad headaches. Uninsured (and not yet a patient of AFC), he finally went to the Virginia Hospital Center (VHC) Emergency Department when breathing became so difficult that he couldn’t hold out any longer. He was diagnosed with COVID-19, admitted, placed on a ventilator, and closely cared for over the next 11 days. Despite his risk of poor outcomes due to uncontrolled diabetes, he slowly began to recover. These were frightening days for him, especially since his brother — his only close relative — wasn’t allowed to visit.

Luckily, Ramiro had access to a fantastic hospital like VHC that provided him with all the available treatment options recommended at the time — convalescent plasma, steroids, and Remdesivir — despite his lack of insurance.

The team at VHC started him on insulin for his diabetes, and when he was ready to be released, referred him to Arlington Free Clinic for on-going care. Our nurse practitioner has been seeing him regularly via telehealth since his hospital discharge. We’ve also provided health education on diabetes management and are pleased to report that his blood sugar is now much better controlled.

Despite all he’s gone through physically, the most difficult part of the pandemic for Ramiro has been the economic impact. Even though the bills and rent notices kept coming, he had to stop working when he was sick — and for quite a while afterwards — due to the virus’s lingering effects on his health and stamina.

Finally feeling strong again, he’s back on the schedule at the restaurant next week.