“He lived for and for medicine.” “When he looked you in the eye, he made you feel bigger.” “He was a soul doctor.” “I gave each patient the best” … These are the words dedicated to the doctors who died from covid-19 in the Community of Madrid. His own family members sat in front of the filmmaker Polo Menárguez’s camera during the month of June with one simple intention: to talk about what his father, mother, husband, and wife were like. That was the director’s objective and the common thread of the documentary Vocation. They sought to honor the deceased through a simple portrait of their loved ones and reflect on the profession to which they dedicated their lives.
In total, 14 male and female doctors have died in the region. And all the families except one of them have participated in the recording. “The essence was: tell me what your father was like so that you understand who was behind each name. Not so much the curriculum, but the human profile ”, says Menárguez about his feature film financed by the Madrid College of Physicians that can now be seen for free on YouTube and that you can see in full at the end of the article.
Pedro García did not hesitate when the phone rang and he and his father were asked to talk about his mother, Rocío Campos, head of the digestive service at the Hospital Universitario del Sureste. “One does it for various reasons, on the one hand because it has allowed us to denounce certain things, but also because talking about it has brought us a little peace within the horrifying,” he says. The relatives have created a WhatsApp group in which they share a “very difficult” duel, in Pedro’s words. It tells of life events that follow even if it is in a new normal: “Yesterday was my mother’s birthday”, for example, and the rest asks how they had it. “I suppose the shock will resemble the victims of 11M,” continues Rocío’s son, “you find warmth in people who feel like you.”
Her mother started feeling ill on March 25, but her picture did not correspond with symptoms of the coronavirus. “He stayed about eight or ten days at home. When a doctor tells you that she is fine, that she may be depressed… what do you do? ”She explains. Until one night she suffered from bilateral pneumonia, an inflammation of the lungs common in the coronavirus. Pedro speaks of “post-traumatic stress” when he remembers that night: “Call his partner Miguel to ask if they have respirators, tell him we’re going there, take my mother in a taxi to his hospital …”. Dr. Campos passed away on April 11 in the ICU from the Southeast University Hospital, where he worked for nine years. “She was never separated from the endoscope and her patients,” says her son. The center plans to call its endoscopy room by name.
Frame of ‘Vocation’. In the image, Alberto Tejedor (right) with his family
In Rocío’s portrait, the first to appear in the feature film, the first allusion is made to one of the issues that make up the documentary: public health. “My mother was one of those people who built it as we know it,” says Pedro. This defense of the public service also appears in the testimony of Blanca Portals, daughter of Inmaculada Hernández Beltrán, family doctor at the Pavones Health Center. “My mother was a faithful advocate of public health at all costs and until the end,” says Blanca, her voice broken at one point in the film. That phrase shocked the director, Polo Menárguez, from the other side of the camera. “When he said that, I imagined myself saying the same thing if it had happened to me,” says the filmmaker, son of a doctor and nurse. “I thought of those people who without making much of a scandal have worked their whole lives for the common good.”
The delivery by the profession is present in the 40 minutes that the documentary lasts. Hence the title, which came up while it was being recorded. The word “vocation” came to him in the interview of Amparo Bravo, wife of Alberto Tejedor, professor, researcher and nephrologist at the Gregorio Marañón Hospital. She summarizes the impulse that led the health workers to work without means, without knowing the disease that saturated the ICUs in all hospitals: “You cannot go home and leave the patients. It’s vocational, ”says Bravo about the deceased nephrologist. The testimonies also mention the lack of material in the centers, which left workers face to face with the virus without the necessary equipment. “Manolo has been a victim of the lack of protection of the toilets”, denounces without hesitation Cristina Cabezas, wife of Manuel Garrido, family doctor at the La Alameda Health Center.
Miguel Ángel Sánchez Chillón, president of the Madrid College of Physicians, does not doubt either: “There is a clear direct relationship,” he says, between the high number of infections among healthcare professionals and the precarious conditions during the peak of the pandemic. “But it was our obligation and as such we have behaved,” continues Sánchez, a family doctor at the Gandhi Health Center. Rejects the word “hero,” as do family members who speak in Vocation. Cristina Cabezas, her gaze steady and her head held high during the interview, is clear about the nuance that her husband was not either: “A hero sacrifices his life, but in a conscious way. At no time was my husband aware that he was going to lose his life or could lose it ”.