Today Thursday is my third day without fever, I have finished the medication and the damn device that measures my oxygen saturation has returned to teach acceptable figures.
The doctors say that I am defeating the coronavirus with all its complications, and that three weeks later it could be cured. But to know it, two tests are necessary, one now and the other one confirmation a week later, and I don’t know if they will do it for me.
In any case, and although the forces are still low and the appetite remains hidden (that in my case is not bad news), it is a good time to tell an experience that unfortunately affects tens of thousands of people only in our country.
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I do not intend to count intimacies because I am rather modest, and I do not intend to give medical data that probably would not be extrapolated nor applicable to everyone.
But at most I am afraid that thousands of people are missing to start the piece of life that I now think I will finish, and for what may help, here is the story, extended version, with a dose of hope and a happy ending today.
Friday March 13
On Friday, March 13, Cristian and I left work, proud after sending the first newsletter of BuscaRespuestas.com, and with the gear under our arms to start teleworking.
At the door I said goodbye to Nacho, who as a good ‘captain’ was going to be the last to leave, and I went home. He was quite tired, but it was a Friday of an intense week and it was not strange either.
On Saturday we started teleworking with intensity, and to the usual routine was added a cough not too intense but annoying enough, along with a feeling of exhaustion well above normal.
As the hours progressed I noticed that I was running out of strength. I felt intense mental fatigue, rather than respiratory, and the cough kept … So the first decisión doctor-family ’decision came: I had to wear the thermometer.
Fortunately, my family has several of those people whom we go out to clap at the window every day at eight o’clock in Madrid, Galicia or Asturias. And the fever on Sunday night, March 15, put them all on alert.
And although I was feeling really bad, exhausted and with a severe back pain, which we always blamed on the telecommuting chair, the fever was not too high, the cough was not excessively scandalous, and the feeling of fatigue that began to appear resolved with being still.
This is what happened on Monday the 16th, with a lot of discomfort, a moderate cough and fever at all hours, but with those temperatures that the doctors call a low-grade fever and are not alarming enough. And so also happened on Tuesday 17.
It was not until Wednesday the 18th when the thermometer began to rise above 38 degrees in the morning. And very soon the 39.
Then I received a clear family order to call the coronavirus phone. And contrary to what I had heard so much in the previous days, they caught me the first time and she was a charming person:
- He has fever?
- Yes. Right now I’m with just over 38.
- You are right. I’ve been coughing since Saturday. And yes, it’s a dry cough.
- He’s drowning?
- Man no. I’m a little tired, but I’m not choking.
- You do not meet the requirements of a coronavirus. Please, if at any time your situation changes, call back. And if it gets much worse, call 061 directly.
It is done. He had done it. Mission accomplished. And I kept trying to lead a normal life, although talking on the phone started to tire me more than I should.
But the fever rose and in mid-afternoon it was still above 39, so my health workers told me to call 061, but making my feeling of fatigue clear.
At 061 they answered my call and then they kept me waiting 21.5 minutes! An eternity for my exhaustion situation, listening to how an answering machine tells me every minute that they attend to me right away.
21.5 minutes waiting, at the end of which a woman’s voice answered me and repeated the same questions:
- He has fever?
- Right now I’m at 39.2.
- Cough? Is it a dry cough?
- There she gave me a coughing fit, so she could hear it herself. And when I finished I told him that I have been coughing since Saturday.
- Are you drowning?
- I explained that I had fatigue, that it had increased every day …
- And he snapped at me: “If you were really drowning you couldn’t have this conversation on the phone. Look to see if you have a cough syrup at home, and take it. For fever, put a damp cloth under your armpits. And if you feel severe choking tonight, call 112 directly.
I suppose I would be very tired, but I also felt terrible. And he was the only person in this whole process that I have no nice things to say about.
First coronavirus test
Two of my daughters are nurses. One works in the ICU and the other in the plant. The two in days of more than 12 hours fighting against COVID-19. So they called their hospital, asked about the price of a coronavirus test and spoke with their colleagues so that they could attend to me.
And so, already at dawn, with some masks that my wife’s ‘handyman’ had made with thick paper napkins folded in accordion, and a plastic in between so as not to infect, we got into the car. My little daughter was driving and my wife and I went to the hospital half crouched in the back seat in case the three of us were caught together.
We were attended to immediately. And they started with what the doctors considered most urgent: taking a lung x-ray. Then a blood test and finally the coronavirus test.
The first result was the most feared: my two lungs were already affected, especially one. The diagnosis was bilateral pneumonia, which, according to what they explained to me, is a serious condition typically caused by the happy coronavirus.
And the most surprising thing for me is that without having had any symptoms that the phones considered evident, the ‘no bug’ had already infected me with force.
Then they drew blood and the dark clouds of ‘double’ pneumonia softened a little in tests not as bad as they could have been. Or at least that’s what they told me.
And finally they told me that the coronavirus test was not even necessary, given the trace that SARS-CoV-2 had already left in my lungs. But we prefer to do it thinking that with a confirmed positive they would take care of us easier in social security.
So they took a stick with some kind of cotton to rub my throat causing a good gagging, and then they put another one in my nose until my eye was crying. Unpleasant but bearable.
The test was already done. In less than a minute. The only thing left to do was wait for the result, which took about six hours.
And at five o’clock in the morning, the three of us got back into the car with the feeling of ‘offenders’ to go home for a rest.
We had a ofeo trophy ’on our face: they gave a mask to my wife and another to me, which I still have. Not as a romantic memory, but because I have no other.
Late the next morning they called me by phone from the clinic and a doctor confirmed that I was positive and had COVID-19.
The next step didn’t have much choice possible. I put the mobile charger in one pocket, the wallet in the other, and again with my wife and daughter we went to the Social Security hospital, the one that is closest to home and which we also consider the best.
It didn’t take long for me to enter, while my ‘girls’ stayed, as long as I did, in the waiting room outside.
There they started 22 very hard hours, with a significant discomfort and sitting in a square and metallic chair looking for a plug to recharge the mobile.
But of all that interminable time I have no more complaint than the fatal resistance of my body, then already exhausted.
With a feeling of high fever, general discomfort that affected every bit of my being, joint pain, headache … and there was no other posture than that of a kind of metallic ‘torture rack’ that a few hours earlier I had also called chair .
Also, I am diabetic, ‘insulin dependent’, and I had not eaten since the previous afternoon, so cold sweats began to arrive, my legs were shaking…
I asked for something to drink, even if it was an envelope of sugar, but with little success. And my wife and daughter, who were outside, called my children home to bring a sandwinch or something I could eat.
The problem, once they had the food at the door, was to get it to where I was. And there appeared, always appears, a guardian angel who in this case was a doctor, friend of a daughter, and another doctor friend of my friend Quique, who was the one who went to look for the bag with food, well into the morning.
The situation lasted an eternity and it was really hard, but I cannot make a single reproach. The medical staff was overwhelmed. They did not stop for a second and did not lose the smile. They were an example of life. But they did not reach more.
I do not have much useful information to tell about those very long hours. Only they did another X-ray, they took blood, they gave me an electro … It was the first time in my life that I had to face a hospital night as a patient, and I discovered many things that I had never even heard of.
From time to time they came to prick me again, but this time they wanted blood from the artery, which is taken from the wrist and which, in addition to being more painful than the usual puncture, is more difficult to find.
The nurse had a terrible time, the poor thing, every time she didn’t get that little bit of arterial blood, but she did it with great delicacy. Both the first time and the second time, because before the end of the night they asked for more arterial blood to analyze.
The worst thing of all was that suddenly they called me to a box and they started to test me for the coronavirus, but only through the nose.
But … if they have already done it to me, if I have already tested positive, if that’s why I am here …
But what if you want rice. They did not know and they repeated the test, with all their hours of waiting.
Of course, something did not work very well if as of March 19 in this country there was no centralized database with all the positives for coronavirus. A base that can be fed, to the second, from any hospital trained to do the tests.
But at what we are, and knowing that this could be extended six hours more sitting in the chair, my large family started. One of my sons went to the other hospital to request a sealed certificate with the result of the test, they sent it to me by cell phone to show it to the doctors, my wife and daughter who were still outside tried to present it at the reception … but I had than wait for the new result.
He must have arrived by mid-morning, because around that time the doctor who seemed to be handling my case told me that the results were not good and most likely he would have to be placed in solitary confinement.
And keep waiting.
Until about seven in the afternoon (from just before nine the day before), the time someone called me by name, sat me in a wheelchair, and took me to an area that turned out to be a medicine plant. converted interior for COVID-19 isolation.
A warning and a lesson
It may sound strange, but about my new life of isolation I want to start by making clear a very important question: the mobile charger.
The anguish of isolated patients who see their cell phone running out of battery and all possible contact with their loved ones disappear is extremely harsh.
It is understandable that in all the medical hustle of the positive, the income, the bad news, the worries, the fears … we do not think of something apparently as trivial as a charger. But it is almost as important as medication. It’s fundamental. And if I don’t say it, I burst.
The next lesson the healthcare staff taught me is that I have to put the mask on at least every time someone enters the room. FOREVER!
And the most admirable thing is to realize that they are doing their job in precarious conditions, without question.
Their masks, which should change every day, have to last them all week because there are not enough. And one of the nurses told me: “Now they say that these isolation gowns are thinking of washing them for reuse. Because there is not ”.
In our hospital, which not all, they wear protective plastic masks, three pairs of gloves, one on top of the other, and what they can do.
But in the circumstances in which they do their marathon working days, most of the health personnel take it for granted that they will not get rid of COVID-19 and only hope that because they are young they will give them laziness and not even take them away from work.
I arrived in the hallway in my wheelchair following a bed in which my isolation companion, whom I had not yet met, was traveling.
Once inside the single room, now with two beds, I reminded the doctor who in the waiting room told us: “don’t be in a hurry to start the isolation, it will be very, very long.”
And seeing that door a little over two meters away, with the heat in the room and a window that opened onto an interior patio, was not the best news. And that in a very good hospital.
My roommate, Felix, is older than me and he had something mythical for me: he had been an ALSA driver. And that in Asturias, in my childhood, in the early 70’s, with ports like La Espina snowed in winter was the closest thing to being a super hero.
I still have a Christmas recorded in Cangas del Narcea in which they told us that if the ALSA had not been able to pass, neither could the Three Kings. We are talking about that level.
And when Felix could sit on the bed you could still see his soccer goalie floor. Long and spiky arms, Iríbar style. I imagine him under the sticks as ‘El Chopo’: sober, well placed, safe, without frills but effective. Like behind the wheel.
Today Félix has left home, already recovered, and when all this history clears I hope to try one of his famous paellas on the edge of the Tagus, in that town of Molina de Aragón of which he spoke as if it were paradise.
Isolation yes, but at home
On Sunday afternoon the doctor came to see me and said:
“His medical situation remains the same and the reasons for his isolation have not changed. But protocols have changed and the situation advises that, if possible, and if you agree, spend your isolation at home. ”
Of course, I did not put a half hit and gave my agreement. I assumed there was no room and the beds were reserved for more serious cases.
He explained that they would give me the complete treatment that would last until the end of the month, and that if I experienced any change or the feeling of suffocation was triggered, I would go directly to the emergency room without intermediate steps.
He announced that an ambulance would take me home and wished me well.
I started to do the backpack that my children had brought me, and Felix, with his experience in hospitals, warned me calmly, that it would be hours before I went out the door. And indeed, it was already night when I got into an ambulance for the first time in my life.
Since then, at home. In my room. With my bath. Locked up, but listening to wonderful voices and every day more eager to run away into the street.
Six times every day, the thermometer, always marking fever even under the effects of paracetamol.
But the worst thing was that little device with a devilish name that could dictate my sentence back to the hospital emergency room.
He pulse oximeter, who hardly even pronounce I know, began to beep when I put my finger in and pulled out a number that was never to celebrate.
The minimum limit that they had given me at the beginning had become the aspirational data that I never managed to reach. And that did not improve no matter how hard I tried to breathe. The cursed beep illuminated a double digit number that instead of going up, went down.
It was the martyrdom of every hour of every day. And at all o’clock he had to do the check, unfortunately with little success.
It was the hardest part of these days of isolation and I came to hate a device that could really save my life, although I thought I could only complicate it.
In the morning and in the evening, the established medication plus a pill added by my excellent family doctor and my internist brother, who hundreds of kilometers away commented on “the move.”
Diarrhea soared, as I had been warned, exhaustion continues even today, although I am improving, and the desire to eat (cheers!) Still shine by its absence.
But the gizmo began to give joy three days ago, and the arrival at the magic number, even if only for a second, was sung at my house as a goal by Sporting.
And so it remains. Firm and rising, albeit slowly, but always above the minimum that the weakness of my lungs had turned into maximum.
Now even a very unpleasant odor that I call ‘the coronavirus smell’ is beginning to fade.
It had appeared in those first days before San José, stuck in my nose. It was unlike anything I had smelled before, and its arrival sometimes made me jump.
But it is also disappearing.
Around me everything must be done with extreme care:
- My eating utensils go to a basin with water and bleach.
- My clothes, which I change every day, are put in bags to take to the washing machine. Like the sheets, which must be washed separately and at high temperatures.
- I live hidden behind a mask and my whole family (five of us are at home) does the same thing when he goes to see me from the door.
- And the nurse who lives at home is also kept half isolated in another room so as not to infect us.
And so is my routine. Everything carefully, everything with a covered face, everything disinfected after touching it or bringing it closer to me …
They have had me without a cell phone because the doctor has said so, and I have not spoken to anyone in all these days, except doctors, including my father. And my mother, of course, was not going to miss the opportunity.
I have also been fortunate to have the support of what I call ‘my scientists’, who through my wife have kept us informed at all times of the evolution of SARS-CoV-2, and have encouraged me and of good recommendations.
The advice that they have repeated with more insistence and that for their wisdom I extend to all, is that a positive and optimistic spirit is one of the best medicines to face this disease.
And that has been easy because through my family I have received so much attention, affection, hugs and virtual kisses, that I have confirmed the many and very good people who surround me and are always there. THANKS!
Now I am wanting to hug, touch, kiss, walk around the house …
Today they let me turn on the computer and gave me a couple of hours to write this story quickly in case someone finds it useful the day their relationship with COVID-19 begins.
The worst thing of all is that today they have also opened the door to the news. The bad news. And they are many. Too many for such a short space of time.
So many that I, as a journalist, learned to question everything, especially statistics, I wonder:
If every month for years about 35,000 people die in Spain, and they hardly ever affect me directly and I don’t know almost anyone …
How is it possible that now that the coronavirus has killed the ten thousand people – three times less – I know so many?
It will be bad luck.