“I walked the corridors of the plant imagining that I was walking between shop windows on Triana street”
A native of Arucas, especially talkative, witty and easy to laugh, already with the tranquility of having received the first dose of the antidote against the coronavirus, María del Carmen allows herself to playfully recreate both the vicissitudes she has faced due to her illness and the last year marked by the pandemic and a harsh confinement that, in his case, has now exceeded nine months. With a mental strength and a commendable will “every day I asked to be the first to get vaccinated so that I could go out as soon as possible to the streets” and resume walks to the sea or enjoy concerts in Doramas Park. Faced with the impossibility of going outside as a preventive measure, he resorts to his imagination to transform the corridors of the residence into those places through which he would like to travel depending on the day. “Sometimes I would walk around the plant thinking that I was walking along Calle Triana and I was looking from one side to the other as if I were walking between shop windows,” he recalls and, laughing, points out that “everything was closed.”
“They clipped my wings”
When the state of alarm was decreed, on March 14, the woman had planned to go out on the street like any other day, but the health workers of the residence explained that a lockdown had begun because of the virus. “I never thought I would live in a situation like this, it was as if my wings were clipped,” he laments. Not surprisingly, the pandemic has meant inflexible seclusion for users of social and health centers and, even, the health of many of them has worsened due to isolation. “There were days when I thought my head was going to go away, but at night I tried to calm myself down and told myself that I had to move on, because my head is the only thing I have,” the woman recalls with anguish, while making a sudden gesture to push the right arm up to the face and put on the mask. Behind the plastic wall that protects it from a possible contagion from outside, María del Carmen acknowledges that “the happiest day in the last nine months was the one that the vaccine arrived”; a drug full of hope and that she herself defines as “the key to get out of the tunnel.”
“There were days when I thought my head was going away, but I had to continue; the head that is the only thing I have “
Still incredulous at the “scandal that has been formed” for being the first to be vaccinated on the island and surprised by the interest that has aroused in the media, the Aruquense defends the idea that “you have to trust the scientists ”. As an example, he cites the faith that passengers place in the pilots of the planes, the drivers of the buses or the cooks of the restaurants. “They are the ones who know,” he adds. The first thing he said when he was inoculated with the antidote was that it did not hurt at all and throughout the week he has not noticed any side effects of the drug. “It is important that we all get vaccinated, for our own good and that of the other,” he claims.
“My parents danced very well, I always looked at their legs and they made me a little envious”
And María del Carmen knows, and a lot, what it means to have confidence. He has put his life in the hands of doctors up to 24 times. At the age of eight, the disease began to reduce his freedom and the pain did not allow him to even go to school, so he had to train through the courses offered by Radio Ecca. Her parents spent all the money they saved on taking her to different doctors, who never knew how to find the right treatment to slow the rampant progression of rheumatoid arthritis. The Puerta de Hierro Hospital, in Madrid, planted some hope in that 14-year-old girl who, upon seeing the inauguration of the center on television, expressed her desire to go there almost with the same insistence and strength with which she wanted to be the first to get vaccinated against Covid-19. In less than nine months his family prepared the expedition and the father, with her caught “like a sack of potatoes”, traveled for the first time in his life to the capital with the hope that the specialists could do something for the health of the eldest of his four children.
“My doctor taught me to fight, to value myself, to love myself and to love the disease”
There they found Dr. Antonio Larrea Gafare, a name that María del Carmen has never forgotten and will never forget. He was the head of the Rheumatology Service of the Madrid hospital at that time and who, after showing astonishment at how the adolescent was doing, asked the father to leave her at the hospital and return to Gran Canaria, because he did not know how long it might take to treat to get it back. Indeed, the treatment was long. She was hospitalized for seven years, during which time she underwent 22 operations. “My father left with tears in his eyes, but he had to return to the island to support my three brothers,” he relives with some regret, since at that time the only way of contact he could use to communicate with his family were the letters. “There was no money for airplanes and my parents could only come to see me four times,” he details. However, his memory of those years spent in a hospital bed is joyous. “I was with seven other young people in the room who were also struggling to survive and, together with the toilets, we formed a family,” he says.
Happy and accomplished
His stay at Puerta de Hierro was like going to college. In the hospital center he learned “not to have a complex for anything and to understand that he was worth the same as the others,” he says. Furthermore, “my doctor taught me to fight, to value myself, to love myself and to love the disease,” underlines María del Carmen, who also reports that she left the hospital wanting to live. “Despite the disability and the daily pain, I feel happy and fulfilled and live life to the fullest,” she says with slanted eyes that show a wide smile under the mask. He only admits one regret: never having been able to dance. With his feet on the ground, because with his imagination he has surely traveled all the floors of El Pino to the rhythm of the songs of Víctor Manuel, Joan Manuel Serrat or Alberto Cortez, his favorite artists. “My parents danced very well, I always looked at their legs and they made me envious,” he evokes with melancholy.
“It is important that we all vaccinate against Covid-19, for our own good and that of the other”
For more than four decades, women have been part of the Cristina Fraternity of the Sick and Disabled (Frater), “a movement of struggle and improvement”. And for four years she led this group at the national level, so each month she traveled two and three times to visit the Peninsula; It is another of his passions and he keeps fond memories of the countless places and people he has known. Through this group, it championed initiatives to improve the quality of life of people with a physical disability and fought for institutions to get involved in removing architectural barriers or making public transport accessible. “I have lived to the fullest and now I live from the memories, but I know that I have not wasted my time,” he concludes.
“Despite the disability and the daily pain I feel happy and fulfilled. I live life to the fullest “
María del Carmen now counts the days remaining to receive the second dose of the vaccine. Aware that seven days after that new injection, he will already have the long-awaited immunity to Covid-19 and that, predictably, the health workers will allow him to recover part of the customs that the pandemic stole from him. She is clear that the Atlantic Ocean has been waiting for her for nine months and it will be the first one she goes to see when she is released.