Who saves our heroes? The living situation in Spain following the COVID19 outbreak

The perspective from a Nursing Care Technician

“A few months ago the world saw what was happening in China as something distant that we would never live in our country, much less in our day to day, in our hospitals, in our families, much less what happened to our colleagues, and for sure to ourselves, because it always seems to us that misfortunes happen only to others, until one day the first coronavirus positive case appears in your country, and even so, you still see it far away because the responsible experts who should have foreseen it do not take it seriously. Then every day the number of cases rise, one here, another one there, but in two weeks everything goes haywire and the hospital emergencies begin to fill with sick people, so many of them that you even have to assist them on the floor of the corridors because there is no more room to put them in. So you have the impression that this is not your life, that what you are living seems like a science fiction movie, until you start to see how your classmates start to fall ill and you realize that this is for real. We realize that we are in a silent, but cruel war that they have sent us without ammunition, without the adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) so that the damn coronavirus does not defeat us. It feels like they have deceived us all.

We have seen how protocols have been changed from time to time in order to “justify” the lack of PPEs, while professionals and the generous population invented some forms of PPEs from garbage bags and with everything that was thought to protect us at all cost, without being able to move or almost breathe.

Meanwhile, every day when I wake up, I keep thinking that it was a bad dream, but soon I come back to reality, because I discover that I am afraid, much more, if possible than yesterday, because every day people I care for are dying. And although in our profession we are used to dealing with disease and death, this damn COVID still makes death even more cruel because it adds a perfidious and horrifying ingredient – loneliness. It is horrible and painful to see patients, most of them elderly, lonely and scared, without the comfort of their loved ones. Isolated, as if they were plagued, with the only consolation that we professionals provide some form of care. They are scared, us too, although we try to hide it because at the moment we are everything to them, that’s why I draw strength from the depths of me and a smile hidden behind my mask that I try to perceive in the happy tone of my voice or in my eyes, also hidden behind that home screen that the good anonymous people have donated to us in the absence of the real ones (those that they say they have asked from China, but which never arrived because of the incompetence of those who should protect us). Meanwhile, the number of deaths is increasing every day and the number of patients reaching the hospital emergency room is increasing. We do not know where to put more beds, the consultation rooms have been turned into ICUs, the corridors are equipped with armchairs, the gymnasiums are filled with beds, it seems that we are in a war although without bombings or bloody patients.

Every day, after devastating shifts of 10 to 12 hours, using the precarious improvised protective equipment in the absence of the real ones, you feel even more afraid if possible, because you might have been infected and because you might take the virus to your house where your children are waiting for you, or your elderly and delicate parents or your husband who also has health problems and then you run to the shower to rub your entire body as if you wanted to tear off your skin. Then when you get home and want more than ever the hug of yours, for fear of infecting them, you just say hello from afar and you run to take off your clothes to put it in the washing machine and you go to bed because the next day you have to come back.  That is why there is no more right for days off and they even had to hire students to make up for the lack of sufficient staff.

The saddest thing of all is the ethical one: despite the fact that the Spanish army set up in record time hospital facilities in exhibition halls, sports centers, gyms, and so on, due to lack of sufficient respirators, it has been necessary to choose who to save and who not to. Unfortunately, our elders, the most vulnerable, those who have struggled so much in their lives so that we have everything  to thank for until today, we had lost.

However, this war is revealing great things that have been forgotten lately due to the superficiality of having a lot of everything and feeling with many “false” entitlements. It has been revealed that although in a society we are all necessary, some are more necessary than others: the health professionals who used to be mistreated and assaulted, often with words but sometimes also physically, are now the “angels” or “heroes” who are being applauded every evening at eight from all the balconies and windows in all corners of Spain. Today more than ever I feel proud of my profession because I feel valued and respected as never before, hoping that when all this ends, they will continue to value me and recognize what until now it cost many to recognize. Although on the other hand, my sadness increases every day because there are already many colleagues infected, sick, isolated in their homes or in hospitals. Five technical colleagues in the nursing care unit, a nurse and several doctors have already died, all because we do not work with the appropriate security measures that they promote. To make matters worse they do not test us, which increases our fear and spreads the contagions.

As for the disease, we are learning a lot and very quickly. We have observed that when our patients start having respiratory distress, if they are lucky to control it and to get intubated in time, sedate them to calm down and if they do not have previous pathologies, they usually come out ahead, although some die very quickly. We have had cases that have entered the emergency rooms by their own feet and had died within five hours. The profile of these are usually men older than 70 years with a certain degree of obesity and some previous pathology, but there are also younger people with no previous pathologies who have serious difficulties; experts say that the form of the disease depends on the viral load to which they have been exposed.

Some recommendations have also been described to avoid that professionals suffering from certain pathologies are not in the front line of fire, such as those who suffer from:

  • Diabetes;
  • Cardiovascular disease, including hypertension;
  • Chronic liver disease;
  • Chronic lung disease;
  • Chronic kidney disease;
  • Immunodeficiency;
  • Cancer in active treatment phase;
  • Pregnancy;
  • Over 60 years;

In conclusion, it is incredible that in the time we live in high technology, advances, discoveries and research in medicine, a miserable virus is responsible for so many deaths, it has confined billions of people, ultimately to the entire world and that it is responsible for a global human and economic catastrophe from which we do not know how we can recover, which will mark a before and after both on the material and spiritual sides.

Data concerning COVID19 cases in Spain on the 7th of April 2020

Confirmed cases: 140510

In intensive care:  7069

Deaths: 13793

Recovered: 43208″