Tales in the time of COVID #1 – Diary of a paramedic

Dear all,

Tales in the time of COVID is a wonderful initiative started by our friend and colleague, Dr Elena Klusova. Throughout these hard weeks of Covid-19 pandemic we have begun to realize that, apart from suffering a world tragedy of human health and fighting a professional war against the disease, as family doctors, we are living in a unique way and sharing with our patients the extraordinary situations from the human point of view. We have started a work on a series of articles, which will bring together a small number of beautiful tender, hopeful and sad human stories, written by health professionals from all countries of the world during the months of the fight against the pandemic, that will make us cry , smile and reflect. If you have a story to tell , please contact us at: ele.k@hotmail.es

Love from the VdGM Executive Team

Diary of a paramedic

… a story told by my friend and colleague, ambulance technician, M Amparo Gómez Zaragoza 

I do not usually write these things but this particular case touched my heart and I think it is a small sample of the horror experienced by the technicians here in Ibiza (like everywhere else). We are professionals but we are also human and here is why there is a need for us to take care of our elders…

A couple of days ago I was working in the ambulance facility which has been added in Ibiza to manage the overload of work due to the increase in transfers of affected patients – the impossibility of leaving some people at home because their symptoms have gotten worse, and so they can no longer be there and need hospitalisation.

We are activated for a service in a town near Ibiza. I will not say names, for anonymity, but it is a few kilometres from the hospital. They tell us it is a “possible” (possible case of Covid-19). With this and the data provided by the coordinating centre, we already know “that it is” though you still hope that in the end “it will not be”. Worst of all, even if “it is not”, we know it will turn out that at the end “it will be” because due to nosocomial infections it will most likely “end up becoming” …  

We arrived at a home to see a granny with a cough and a fever for a few days, difficulty breathing, presumably pneumonia.

Josefa is sitting in an armchair in her house. Her relative tells us that she needs help to move due to her age and because of a hip that was broken a little while ago, so my ambulance partner and I are preparing to get dressed. Full Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) – waterproof gown, double gloves, goggles, mask. When we are finished we look like weirdos. Josefa looks at us with wide eyes. I guess she wonders what is wrong with her so we have to enter her house like this.

When we enter, first of all, we put a mask on her nose and mouth too according to protocol.

“My dear, you have covered my eyes so I don’t see”

“Calm down JosefaNow I will fix it. Let me tie the knot first. I’m going to put on some gloves too, okay?

“But I don’t need gloves. I’m not going to touch anything.”

“I know, my love, but we have to. It’s for safety, you know?

I put the gloves on carefully onto the wrinkled little hands, putting each little finger slowly, trying not to hurt her. I have taken a larger size, just in case. Josefa looks at me again.I think she doesn’t like what I’m doing to her.

We leave her house slowly, step-by-step. She walks with some crutches which we now replace with our arms. She holds me tight.

Excuse me, if   I don’t hold on, I will fall …”,

“You won’t fall, I will support you! “

We stop every once in a while because she can’t breathe very well. She gets tired with every step she takes. She uses all the oxygen that enters her face mask and even then it’s not enough …

“We´ll stop every time you need, Josefa. Don’t worry. Rest. “

There is a lot of silence outside. Suddenly I look up and see people – people who are not in their houses in the courtyards next door to us, Josefa’s neighbors. They have left their houses, alerted by the lights and the sirens, and also because they already knew why she was going away. People come out to say goodbye, although no one says anything. As we walk, the silence grows bigger. I feel like “La Santa compaña” [a procession of the dead practised in parts of Spain] walking with Josefa arm-in-arm with her neighbors surrounding us without saying a word. Everyone knows. Josefa breaks down crying, clutching my arm even tighter. We put her in the ambulance and her daughter kisses her, also through tears, through the mask.

 “See you there, mum. They will take care of you on the way, be calm!”

My partner gets into the ambulance with her, in the back. I have to drive so I start to remove the PPE as we have been taught, slowly. I notice how my eyes cloud and I turn around, looking at the ground so they don’t see me (they already have enough).

Her daughter asks me if she can come with us. She looks at me hopefully. I suppose she wants me to say yes, although I know I can’t let her up. We have been forbidden to transport companions to the hospital. She gets a little nervous and goes to find her car. She also knows. I turn to close the side door. Josefa is sitting with her face mask on, her wrinkled little hands inside very large gloves, in her pink dressing gown, crying without consolation …

“Josefa, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?

She looks at me, makes an attempt to caress my face, and says very softly, almost imperceptibly:

“Because I know I will not return any more …

Today I find out that Josefa died yesterday, alone, because she had to be isolated, without her family, without the neighbors who came to see her off because they “knew” …

Damn … this… virus …

(Translated from Spanish by Dr Elena Klusova)

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