“We will never have an answer,” said his mother. At 16, Julie A. died of coronavirus in Paris, making her the youngest French victim of coronavirus, yet reputed to affect mainly the elderly or vulnerable.
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“It’s unbearable,” said Sabine, the girl’s mother, simply. By speaking at full speed, she evokes “the shock of losing a child”, “the meaning of life”, the obligation to “continue”.
“We had to have a classic life,” she said finally, joined Thursday by phone by AFP, at her home in the Paris suburbs.
“She just had a cough,” repeats Sabine. A small, mild-looking cough that appeared a week ago that she had tried to treat with syrup, herbs, inhalations.
Saturday, Julie begins to feel short of breath. “Not huge, she was struggling to catch her breath,” recalls her mother. Then come the coughing fits, which push her Monday to drive her daughter, without any particular health problem, to the doctor.
There, the general practitioner notes an “acceptable” respiratory deficiency. He decides to call the Samu, finally it is the firemen who arrive.
Full coveralls, masks, gloves, “it’s the 4th dimension,” says the mother. They take the young girl, wearing a paper mask under her oxygen mask, to the nearest hospital, in Longjumeau, in Essonne.
Sabine goes home. When she called the hospital a little later, she was told of a CT scan, pulmonary opacities, “nothing serious”. A COVID-19 test is underway.
But in the night, Julie, in respiratory insufficiency, is transferred to the Necker hospital for children, in Paris. Two other tests of COVID-19 are being carried out.
Julie is admitted to intensive care on Tuesday. When her mother comes to visit her in the afternoon, she is anxious, speaks but quickly tires: “I have a bad heart,” she says.
But the results of the last two tests of COVID-19 bring good news: negative.
“We open the door to the bedroom, the nurses no longer wear a gown, the doctor raises his thumb to tell me it’s okay,” says Sabine. Julie seems to have avoided the worst.
It is late, Sabine returns home, promises that she will return the next day.
Late in the evening, a call: the result of the first test done at Longjumeau hospital has just arrived, Julie is positive for COVID-19 and her condition is deteriorating, she must be intubated.
“We don’t believe it. We say they were wrong. And why are these results coming so late? ”Sabine wonders again.
“From the start, we have been told that the virus does not affect young people. We believed it, like everyone else, ”says Julie’s older sister, Manon.
Around 12:30 am, another call: “Come, quickly!”.
“There, I panicked. There are words that make you understand, ”says Sabine.
According to the Director General of Health, Professor Jerôme Salomon, who announced the death of the girl Thursday evening, Julie was the victim of a severe form of the “extremely rare” virus in young people.
“She was already gray,” says Sabine.
When she arrives at the hospital with her older daughter around 1:00 am Wednesday, Julie is dead. She touches his hand, “her skin was still warm,” she recalls.
His sister caresses her forehead. And then immediately, we explain to them that they will not see her again, the protocol in times of epidemic is strict.
“Everything we tell you, in an hour …” said Sabine.
Impossible also to recover the affairs of the girl, everything must be burned. They still manage to keep a baptism chain, a bracelet.
Julie’s body is in the mortuary room of the Necker hospital. He will not leave before the planned burial in a few days. As a precaution, there will be no ceremony, only ten people will be present at the cemetery.
“We had to choose among our loved ones who will be present,” says Manon. “The day of her death, we already had to choose a coffin for her.”
This coffin must remain closed and Julie “will neither be made up, nor dressed, we are not allowed,” says her sister.
“It’s hard to cash in,” she said along with her mother.
According to the latest assessment, 1,696 deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded in hospitals in France since the start of the epidemic.
Since Thursday evening, the television banners have repeatedly pointed out that a 16-year-old girl died from the coronavirus.