Yacoob, St. Louis

Around the time of Missouri’s first Coronavirus deaths in March 2020, Yacoob took in a teenage boy who needed a place to stay. Shortly after he moved in, he became very sick. Yacoob’s children were home full time, because of social distancing and school closures in St. Louis, so he was afraid that if the boy had the virus, he and his children would get it as well. He took him to the hospital, where he was tested and immediately discharged despite having severe COVID-19 symptoms such as fever and dry cough. There was no follow-up about the tests results. With no information from the hospital, Yacoob continued to care for his kids and the young boy, becoming increasingly afraid that they would all fall ill as well.

Eventually, the boy’s father and school superintendent were contacted. The school supported him and had sincere concern about community spread, so the superintendent and Yacoob placed the boy in supervised quarantine at a hotel from county health department, with support from the county health department. But by that time, Yacoob had already gotten sick himself, and his daughter had similar symptoms to those of the boy who tested positive.

He was told by urgent care to bring his daughter and himself to the hospital, even though they are uninsured– he was told that they would get free testing there. When he arrived, he was treated inappropriately by an ER doctor who was condescending to Yacoob about his concern for his children’s health and refused to test them. Rather than recognize that Yacoob was trying to do what was best for his family and get answers, the doctor was dismissive and inconsiderate. The doctor informed him that he could only come back if he or his children had very severe symptoms or stop breathing because of capacity and testing shortages.

Yacoob had to leave the hospital at 3am with no test or treatment plan besides a prescription for Ibuprofen for his daughter. Soon after, his son got very sick. Currently, he and his children all almost certainly have COVID-19 after living and supporting someone who had tested positive and were inadequately supported by the hospital. He is trying to care for his kids and nurse himself back to health, with no insurance or direct guidance from health care professionals. He is finding that his and his children’s COVID-19 symptoms are changing rapidly day-to-day and it is very challenging to manage all of their wellness with no medical support.

Yacoob has experienced discrimination in a hospital setting, and is afraid that COVID-19 will result in preventable illness and death in his community. His friends and family abroad have been very concerned about him and his kids as they see what is unfolding in Missouri and the US. While the US has the highest death rate, almost no testing capacity, and people like Yacoob’s family are being treated poorly at the ER when they seek care, he sees his home state of Kerala India as an example of how to treat COVID patients with dignity and respect. He hopes that other families with small children are treated more ethically at the hospital when seeking treatment, and that people see the importance of Medicaid Expansion in Missouri now, more than ever.