The confinement has worked, the Intensive Care Units (ICU) breathe in all the hospitals in the Canary Islands, but their staff has passed a huge test, cope with an avalanche of patients with severe respiratory failure and so scared that they not only needed medical care, they needed to hear these words: “ICU is life, you come to heal yourself”.
The EFE Agency shared one morning with the team from the Intensive Medicine Unit of the Insular Hospital of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the first in the Canary Islands to receive a critical patient as a result of the coronavirus, an Italian tourist who already sees the medical discharge closer, but who has spent 38 days with them.
Under normal circumstances, the Insular ICU has a capacity for 30 critically ill patients. In this pandemic, his team was asked to prepare for almost triple, about 80, details the head of Intensive Medicine at the Juan Carlos Martín hospital.
In the Canary Islands these days there is debate about how to deal with lack of confidence, because it seems that yes, the island society has already managed to bend the famous curve. The figures from the intensive care units support this statement: in the Insular de Gran Canaria there are only 8 patients left, when they reached 17, and they have not received anyone with Covid-19 for 14 days.
When it all started, his staff stocked up on equipment, especially monitors and respirators, but it took more effort to reinforce themselves with “staff trained for such serious patients,” Martín explains.
Among those personnel is the Intensive Care Nurse Javier Ramos, with 21 years of experience, most of them at the Insular.
Your workday has radically changed these weeks. “Now every day we dress in PPE, disposable pajamas, glasses, mask, waterproof gown,” he says, which makes a fundamental aspect of the job very difficult, “communicating with the patient.”
“We constantly talk to them, we touch them and we shake hands, we strive to have their voice recognized.” Ramos highlights the latter, because since the Covid-19 changed the day to day of the entire country, they are so covered that it is difficult for patients to recognize them behind screens, glasses and protective suits.
“It is we who are with them. They are alone, they have no one close and we entered the module almost unrecognizable. “
This nurse reports that working like this “is very complicated”, but he has turned a group of professionals who were already “a great team” into “a family”. That also explains, he is convinced, that there has not been a contagion among the toilets of this IMMI.
The relationship with patients has been much more delicate. “They are scared, they come with over-information, they know the gravity of the situation and they cannot be with their close ones. They do not even see our faces,” says Ramos. ICU patients “cry, get excited” and health workers sometimes feel helpless that they cannot comfort someone in their circumstances.
But it’s not always like this. “We speak to them so that the nervousness is removed and the process is more bearable, we touch the glass to ask them how they are when we see that they are awake, we tell them about our life, we encourage them. Everything will turn out well,” says this nurse. , because “this unit is life, here they come to be cured”. And, that, in the Insular Hospital of Gran Canaria, they repeat it to everything that goes through the door of the intensive care unit.
What the toilets do not tell the sick is that they have also been afraid. “We can take the virus home and the media noise, in the end, it takes its toll,” Ramos confesses.
The UMI supervisor, Dara Soria, feels “satisfied and very happy” with the work they have done. He knows that thanks to him dozens of discharges from this hospital have been possible. And the same happens in the rest. In the Canary Islands, there are already more cases closed due to medical discharge (1,033) than patients still pending to defeat the virus (987).
The management of this situation has been “very complicatedIt lasts, there are many hours of sacrifice, learning from the experience, “says Dara Soria. There was a moment, he recalls, that” from having a drip of patients and with spaced incomes, we went in a few days to a full in the two modules ” , something that “never” had lived before.
The most complex, he confesses, have been “long hours, without being able to disconnect. It has been a month of endless days.”
And personal life also complicates things for Intensive Care professionals. This supervisor clearly explains it: “My little son throws himself on me when I get home and knowing that I can’t hug him because of the risk of contagion … It gets tough.”
The UMI doctor who coordinates the Covid-19 module, Domingo González, agrees with his partner. You also cannot disconnect.
“We have had to do an express master in this virus, reading articles at dawn to study how to save a life the next day, “he says. And on nights like this, UMI staff can be given” three in the morning, talking among colleagues, because the treatment is and remains unknown ” .
In doctor González, he accumulates many years in years in intensive care and certifies that “never” before they faced something like this.
“You don’t see the relatives, everything happens in a highly dramatic social environment and we see how people die around us. That transmits fear to us and with it we have to get home, afraid to infect and thinking of continuing to work,” he acknowledges.
This veteran of the Insular UMI is sure, they have done it “well”. “The necessary means were provided to advance an unprecedented process and we have managed to save many lives.”
For him, all the personnel of the COVID-19 module have great merit: “He has the courage to enter where everyone is afraid“
At the operational level, many changes have been assumed and they have had to learn how to use some protective equipment “on the go.”
Another of the difficulties of this pandemic was that the patients could not have close contact with their relatives. “It is something new and that in intensive care is very important,” explains Domingo Rodríguez. For this reason, the Insular provided equipment so that patients could make video calls to their loved ones.
“I remember a very beautiful moment when the Italian patient, already on a respirator, contacted her daughter in Italy … it was exciting,” she says. It also comes to mind “an older patient that we thought was not going out and was able to connect with her family, like the coronavirus-positive pregnant woman who came at risk for the mother and the baby. “They are both well.
Domingo González considers that this health crisis must mark a before and an after, because “public health looks after the person, the service prevails”, and now the consequences of the cuts are being verified. “With public health you do not play”, sentence.