Toronto woman with long COVID applies for assisted dying, citing financial pressures

Tracey Thompson has been suffering the symptoms of long COVID following an infection in March 2020

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A Toronto woman has applied to be euthanized under Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying program after long COVID has sapped her energy and left her unable to enjoy life’s ordinary pleasures, she said.

“My quality of life with this illness is almost nonexistent, it’s not a good life,” Tracey Thompson, 55, told DailyMail. “I don’t do anything. It is painfully boring. It’s profoundly isolating.”

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Thompson, a former chef, says she is unable to work due to debilitating Long COVID symptoms, including constant nausea, fatigue and memory loss.

Extreme exhaustion has also left her bed-ridden for 22 hours a day, while brain fog has increasingly made listening to music, reading and watching movies inaccessible because she “can’t process the info,” she said.

Thompson told CTV News last year she decided to apply for MAID because she is running out of money, not out of any wish to die.

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“I’m very happy to be alive. I still enjoy life. Birds chirping, small things that make up a day are still pleasant to me, they’re still enjoyable. I still enjoy my friends,” she said.

Canada’s MAID program, which was initially introduced in 2016 for terminal patients, was expanded in March 2021 to include patients with “a grievous and irremediable medical condition.”

In 2022, 13,241 people died through the MAID program, accounting for 4.3 per cent of all deaths in Canada. That figure includes 463 people “whose natural deaths were not reasonably foreseeable,” according to a Health Canada report.

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In a GoFundMe page created in 2021, Thompson says she was attacked by a man who gave her COVID in March 2020, as the infection was first beginning to spread in Canada.

“The man grabbed me, shook me, coughed in my face & laughed ‘You’re sick now,’” she wrote.

“I thought it was a cruel joke. I was wrong,” she said. “I had contracted COVID & I never recovered.”

Just a few months after being infected, her health worsened beyond the symptoms most people suffer.

“At that time, they didn’t even know what long Covid was, no one did,” she said, adding it was difficult “to be taken seriously” by doctors.

She was losing her cognitive function and ability to exercise, being too short of breath.

In the fall of 2020, Thompson said she was back in hospital after struggling to catch her breath for 36 hours. She was was finally diagnosed with long COVID months later, in 2021.

Since she contracted COVID, Thompson has been diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and mast cell activation syndrome.

Thompson, who loves cooking, is now only able to eat unseasoned chicken and vegetables for most days because she is “allergic to everything,” she said.

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She also suffers from unstable blood pressure and lightheadedness. Her heart can start racing from simple tasks like standing up and lying down.

According to research published in the journal Nature, at least 65 million people worldwide suffer from long COVID, which has no cure. The research identified 200 post-COVID symptoms impacting multiple organs; many of the symptoms can last for years.

Thompson said she has no family and has lost her friends since her illness took hold. She also had to give her dog up for adoption because she could no longer care for her, she said.

Her savings have now been severely strained due to food, housing and medical costs.

Her GoFundMe page, which was created in October 2021, has raised $65,683 of her $100,000 goal. Donations and words of encouragement were still arriving in recent weeks and months.

“I have signed up for trials & am hoping for, not miraculous, but at least useful results,” Thompson posted in a June 2023 update.

She has said she is legally barred from sharing the status of her MAID application.

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