#6 Gema López, Photographer of Marie Claire Spain (Spain)
She tells how she experienced the coronavirus epidemic and the hospitalization of her husband, Javier, who is still at the ICU hospital. She describes everything, from his first symptoms to the protocols that are followed in Spanish hospitals to treat the sick. And she doesn’t forget to send a big thank you to all the health workers who put themselves at risk every day to save everyone else. “The applause falls short compared to what these flesh-and-blood heroes do for us,” she says.
“Before the confinement decreed by the government, my husband, Javier, was fine. We were at home with friends, my son had even invited some of his own, and were all watching a football match. An ordinary day in our lives. Two days later, we learned that we would have to stay home. Although I was terrified with the idea, I thought that we would all be healthy at home. I thought it would be something interesting we would talk about in the future, even though I had been very afraid of this virus ever since the first cases were announced in China.
On the third day of the confinement, Javier, who is never sick, began to have a high fever. I told him: “Javi, you have coronavirus”, but he just answered, “That’s impossible, you’re crazy.” I gave him medicine, but the fever wouldn’t drop below 37. I tried calling the public telephone numbers that the Government had put in place, but there was no answer. So I decided to phone our family doctor, who happens to be our neighbor, and she said that it looked like he might have it. She advised me to continue to give him the medicine because maybe it was just a fever, like a lot of people who have a fever for a month and develop no other symptoms. I gave him one pill every six hours, but the effect of the drug only lasted for four hours.
On the sixth day he got up very tired, taking a shower exhausted him. He had trouble breathing and was extremely fatigued. I am a very strong woman and very headstrong, but I am also cautious, so when I saw how he was, I didn’t hesitate for a second and we headed to the hospital straight away. As soon as he arrived they put him in the emergency room and took all the measures in their protocol for such cases: they isolated him and then gave him a test, which confirmed that he had a rather considerable onset of pneumonia in one lung. I was told he had to stay in the hospital, with a treatment that lasted for two days. They were following the healing protocol, not skipping anything, they’re all following the same protocol. And after two days, the protocol commands to repeat the COVID-19 test. The test came positive and oddly enough, that very same day everything started: the pneumonia that was in just one lung spread to the second one and had become quite large; but more than that, what most alerted the doctors was that all the parameters were present in the analysis. He was immediately sent to the ICU. Fortunately they did not intubate him, as he could breathe perfectly with a mask, which was extremely positive. Four hours later, they called me back to reassure me, telling me that the lungs were responding and that all that what left to do was to decrease the swelling in the lungs and several other organs that had swollen up as well. That first day was horrific. The only good thing was that they kept us informed of everything, not only in the beginning, but continually letting us know about all the progress or complications, calling at least twice a day.
The following step in the protocol is inflammatory and corticosteroids in powerful doses, which is what really attacks this virus, in addition to the antibiotic that is already needed for the pneumonia. It seems that the other medication is what actually stops de virus. In Javier’s case it was very quick, the next day they called me to say that he had reacted very well, that all his metrics were improving, and that the lungs were recovering too. Javier is still in the ICU today. Doctors tell me that he will not leave until he goes back to his full respiratory capacity, that is, until his lungs breathe properly without help, because they need to finish cleaning up the pneumonia. It’s a very hard, very long process.
I live this situation at home like hell, because I have no shoulder to cry on. My son is 17 years old, I don’t want to burden him with fear, I want to be strong for him, because he is also in his last year of high school and no one knows what will happen with graduation and access to the University. Since I left Javier at the hospital, I’ve stopped watching the news on television or listening to the radio. I only watch comedies and documentaries because I can’t bear to hear the statistics, they make my head spin. I can only wait, and thank all the doctors, nurses and sanitary staff. When things get so bad, that’s when we realize the human quality they have, the strength, the joy they radiate even when they see all the horrors they are seeing. They are not superheroes, they are flesh and blood just like us, but they really have incredible values and are very unrecognized socially, just like the scientists who are working against the clock to find a cure for this pandemic. Thank you all from the heart.”