QCOSTARICA – His heart thumped every time he reached the basement of the hospital and pressed the button for the elevator that would take him to the top floor. There, was his mother admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), fighting against covid-19.
As a doctor, he knew there was a possibility of finding the bed empty.
That Tuesday in October, he left his father very seriously ill, in the emergency covid area. A few minutes before, an ambulance helped take him to the hospital with sudden respiratory complications after having overcome a first hospitalization due to the new coronavirus. He left him in the hands of his colleagues while he went up to see how his mother was doing.
When he came down, the doctors gave him the harsh news: his father, over 81, had died after 7 pm, while he was visiting the ICU. He couldn’t be with him in the last moments.
His mother never found out about the death of the man with whom he shared almost 60 years of marriage and five children. She was sedated. Four days after, she also died of causes related to covid-19.
Not a month has passed of such tragic losses for this specialist in General Surgery, who like many health professionals, has had to face the onslaught of the pandemic from his work in a Caja (CCSS) hospital.
“It’s Dantesque,” he said between the first sentences of a story that he agreed to share in exchange for his anonymity. He did so with the sole intention that those who read it become aware of the magnitude of the emergency that the country and the world are experiencing.
“Since the first case was registered in March, we were aware of the immense risk for everyone, and the possibility that this could be done something huge,” said the doctor.
Furthermore, the wound, deep and painful, is still fresh for him and his family. He has just returned to work.
“It has been very very hard. The matter of my dad has been terrible, but somehow we expected such an event because of his condition. You think you are prepared, but when the time comes, it is not like that,” he commented in reference to a neurodegenerative disorder that his father had dragged on for years and that made him more vulnerable to attack by any disease.
His mother, on the other hand, was younger, she just turned 77, fully active, until the day she appeared with a sudden cold that ended up being covid-19.
“My mother’s was as if a bucket of cold water fell on you because she was a 100% active woman. As a doctor and as a son, I had the hard part of being here. It is very hard, exhausting and stressful. At least I had the opportunity to be with her in her last moments,” he said.
One of his four brothers was unable to bury his parents. He was hospitalized for the same cause when he learned of the deaths. Another brother contracted the coronavirus, but his evolution was more favorable and he did not require hospitalization.
The crying trapped in the voice
This general surgeon, with several decades of experience, has had to face another side of the pandemic in his work: that of non-covid patients who must go to the operating room due to their serious condition.
This has been such an intense emotional experience! I don’t know how many hours I have cried over this. It’s the sad part, but it’s also positive in the end because I wouldn’t have a thousand years to thank for the support I’ve received
They are emergencies, cancer patients or those with scheduled surgeries whose specialist doctors have mediated to justify the urgency of the operation. The rest of the procedures have been suspended since March to give priority to the attention of the pandemic.
“As a general surgeon, I have had cancer patients, or emergencies. I have also had to enter some covid rooms, with all the care, because more and more patients require some intervention from us.
“Since the first case was registered, in March, we were aware of the immense risk for everyone, and the possibility that this could be done something great,” he said.
What he never imagined is that the disease would knock on his door like that. “It was about a month ago when I found out that my mother had symptoms of the flu. She took good care of herself. At some point we suspected that she could have been infected in one of her outings, but later we learned that there was a family link. There she was infected. It came out positive.”
She was first in a ward, but her condition deteriorated. As she was still a functional and salvageable woman, he said, she went up to the ICU. “She was neither hypertensive nor diabetic. The only antecedent is that she had been a smoker, but had quit about 20 years ago,” he clarifies.
It is not really known who infected whom: if her mother to the father, or vice versa. Both were admitted to the hospital, but only the woman went to the ICU because she met the criteria to be there.
Not his dad. He remained in the ward and, contrary to the forecasts due to his background condition, had a more favorable evolution, to the point that they gave him the green light to go home.
“He continued to care at home but there it got complicated. It was when we took him back to the hospital, and he died,” he says.
Co-workers and friends have become the wound balm for this doctor and his family.
He also hopes that the rest of the population reacts and does not wait to live an experience similar to his to realize that this disease is as hard as it is real.