tale of a Covid-19 passed under the radars


“We are at the cemetery, alone, unable to take us in the arms”. In Paris, the brutal death of Berto Taïeb left a family plagued by sorrow and questions about a case of Covid-19 passed under the doctors’ radar.

The coronavirus, this bon vivant who was preparing to celebrate his 71 years “was not the last to joke about it”, tells AFP the eldest of his three daughters, Maïa. “It was far away, we didn’t feel concerned.”

Successful advertiser, active retiree who “went to the gym every day, watched his diet and had no health problems”, Berto had been working for months on a project: BBoomers, “a social network for people like us who tired of being looked at like old people. ”

On Saturday, February 29, at the start of the epidemic in France, Berto was overcome with great fatigue. He also has a little fever.

Two days later, his attending physician, finding that he had no cough, diagnosed the onset of influenza. He simply prescribed Doliprane and Propanolol because his heart was beating fast. He comes home, “with his little one,” recalls his daughter.

That same day, Monday, March 2, 100 cases of patients with coronavirus are now listed across France. New measures have just entered into force, including the ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people.

The next day, “he had his best voice, and told me not to worry anymore.” In the days that followed, however, his temperature made the yoyo and his fatigue persisted. The exhausted patriarch of the family cut short the calls.

– “Nightmare” –

On Thursday March 5, Berto Taïeb’s fever rises to 40.3 ° C, but still without any other symptom than his heart beating faster. Neither SOS Doctors, overwhelmed, nor the Samu, not considering his symptoms too critical, agree to take charge, according to the testimony of his daughters. But his worried family doctor received him at 8:30 p.m.

Having no coronavirus detection test, “he could not do anything,” admits Maïa. “My mother came home with my father, they ate and went to bed.”

“At 4:00 in the morning, my mother wakes up because my father is in a fit of a very violent cough like he has never had before. She passes him his medication and then calls 15”.

Her husband finally seems to have fallen asleep. When the Samu arrived, “a good hour” after the family’s call, Berto Taïeb could not be revived. Death is noted at 8:12 am, a few hours after the appearance of the first respiratory symptoms.

An ambulance leaves with the body and the Samu leaves a mask for Madeleine and her son-in-law, as well as an explanatory booklet on health instructions in the event of contamination with the coronavirus.

That same Friday, 423 contaminations including 7 deaths were recorded in France. Berto Taïeb is not part of the count.

“For a long time, we had no official certainty on the causes of death. The wait for the autopsy was horrible, there was no authorization to bury. We say + we will waking up is a nightmare + “, recalls Maïa.

The post-mortem results fall a week later: the death was caused by the coronavirus.

– Family chaos-

His widow, Madeleine, 68 years old, feverish but presenting “no serious symptom”, a sentence which does not mean anything any more for the family Taïeb, is finally tested, by dint of insisting, at the hospital Beaujon de Clichy.

She too is positive at Covid-19. Several family members then live under the same roof during this period of mourning.

In this family and health chaos, the burial permit is issued for Monday, March 16, on the eve of confinement in France.

For the burial, only 15 people are authorized in the cemetery of Levallois and no meditation is allowed on the remains. The deceased did not benefit from any of the mortuary rites and was buried, naked, in a plastic cover.

“The only contact I had with my father since that phone call to say that everything was fine was when I was able to touch his coffin,” said his daughter.

“My father had a devastating form of this virus on which we do not yet know everything,” she insists.

“It is not the fault of the doctor, who was not given the means to act. As for the Samu,” they focused on the issue of respiratory symptoms and could not cope “, she estimates today. “My father suffered from a set of failures and it is deeply unfair”.

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