Saturday 27 February 2021

Director of the Alajuela hospital: “I remember March 6 with unknown anguish”

QCOSTARICA –  had assumed the directorship of the San Rafael de Alajuela Hospital only two weeks when she had to face her first case of covid-19, the second in Costa Rica, in which 32 staff of the medical center were infected.

Dr. Karen Rodríguez, director of the San Rafael de Alajuela hospital

The 36-year-old doctor will never forget the first weekend in March when it was confirmed that the first cases of the country’s own coronavirus were in her hospital. That day began a battle against the deadly virus that has already cost 2,037 lives as of Monday, December 21.

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Since March, Dr. Rodriguez and thousands of other health workers have been in the front row of a pandemic that, even with a vaccine in sight, continues with great intensity.

The 36-year-old doctor explains she took over the leadership of one of the major hospitals in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) on February 24, 2020, and the first case of coronavirus covid-19was confirmed in Costa Rica on March 6.

“There was a logistical issue from the point of view of functions, of knowing people, it is a hospital in which there are many departments, there are more than 1,600 employees. You had to react quickly.

“The news was stunning, one does not expect to have the case already hospitalized; It is different if they tell you that we have a potential case in the emergency room or one a patient in an ambulance and on the way, but not a case that it is already admitted, receiving care and will many people around. There was not much time neither for contemplations, nor of laments, it was of reaction”, said Dr. Rodriguez.

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The most difficult was the anxiety, whom we are going to give the news, how to approach colleagues and patients who were around the covid patient.

“People were scared, and why not? We are human beings. We had to organize ourselves, see who had to do the tests, we had to quickly set up the day hospital unit, which was where we took symptomatic or suspicious patients. It was a lot of work. It was one night-early morning and two days, Saturday and Sunday, in which we worked very hard to begin to take care of what was happening well and in an orderly and controlled way,” said the doctor.

They were days with little or no sleep, more than usual. And, the little or no sleep, has been ongoing for months, “with great conviction, I speak of the entire staff” the doctor explained, as they worked around the clock, no holidays, no weekends, it was a team effort.

For Dr. Karen Rodríguez March 6 means many things to her, “so many feelings. I have always believed in God, but this year more because one sees that opportunities are in crisis, blessed is the crisis that brought you closer to God. God was in charge of lighting the panorama. I remember March 6 with anxiety, with unknown anguish”.

“Anxiety and anguish in the face of uncertainty, but the conviction that in the end you realize that people, health personnel, always, even if they are afraid, take the step forward,” continued the doctor.

“That day I saw the bimodal face reflected: the colleague who was distressed because she was with a positive patient and who later went home, but that same colleague knew that her job was to care for the patients who depended on us. We couldn’t run away, say ‘I’m scared and I’m going’,” Dr. Rodríguez recalled.

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The most difficult for the doctor during these nine months she summarizes in two episodes: having to say goodbye to doctor (Reinaldo) Albernás, (head of Gynecology at the Hospital de Alajuela, who died of coronavirus on April 6) and the 15 Caja staff who have died from the coronavirus.

“I do not forget, and I will never forget, and my life will be forever marked by the first death of a colleague, a retired doctor who died in the intensive care unit of the hospital, and was the first deceased in the country (the Dr. Roberto Galva), the family could not be with the deceased, the normal process could not be carried out, that does not happen with the covid.

“For me, it was very hard, the daughter contacted me and asked if he could see him through a glass in the intensive care unit; I also have a father and I would want to be in those shoes, we cannot dehumanize this type of thing, so she was given permission with all the measures and I accompanied her for a moment.

“She wanted to say goodbye. Through the glass, she expressed all the love she had for him and from there she had to leave with a different process, she was not going to see him again, they could not light a candle for him. That grieving process is abrupt, he died and that’s it, that marked me a lot, it was terrible.

Dr. Karen’s driving force through all of this is her five-year-old daughter, who, when she arrives home late and tried, has had the patience to understand what is happening and I am convinced that she understands, she sees in the news and even worries.

How does Karen Rodríguez describe 2020?

“It is difficult to put 2020 into words because it is so much. I think an adjective would be extraordinary in every sense of the word because we suffer, we get tired, we lost friends, family, colleagues, we lost peace, but just as we fell, we will get up.”



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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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