Health reported the first three infections of the virus in La Torre de les Maçanes, in San Vicente and in Vega Baja
There was still no talk of pandemic, the masks they were only used inside hospitals and life went on as if nothing had happened in the streets, bars and shops. This week marks one year since the arrival in the province of Alicante of a pandemic that has changed our lives and that has led to a economic crisis and unprecedented social. One year of the first contagions when most thought this would be little more than bad flu season. In those first three cases, detected in Torremanzanas, Saint vincent and in the Vega Baja146,000 more patients have followed, of which 2,539 have died. A pandemic that has put the health system on the ropes, with three waves in which 11,227 people have been hospitalized and 1,456 have needed intensive care.
The pandemic has put the health system on the ropes, with three waves in March, October and January
Asunción Cartagena was one of the first patients to be infected and admitted to the ICU. Remember exactly when you contracted the disease. “It was on March 7 as a result of a celebration in which a large part of the family was infected”. It couldn’t even occur to her that she was infected with covid, but his sister doctor yes. “He told me not to even think of moving from home and after two or three days, since I was getting worse, he took me to the Sant Joan hospital.” Within hours, Cartagena was transferred to the ICU because she could not breathe. He would not leave the critical care unit until 92 days later and the hospital until five months later. He turned 63 there, “although I don’t remember anything from that day because he was one of the worst.”
“I turned 63 in the ICU, but I don’t remember anything because it was one of the worst days I was”
And the case of Cartagena is one that can be described as a miracle. «I was very ill, they tried to extubate me three times and in all of them it got worse. It seems that the recovered patient plasma was what helped me to come back when the doctors already gave it up for lost ». In mid-July, she left the hospital, but only as an admitted patient, “because it is still like my second home.” And it is that Cartagena still has important sequels that take it regularly to the Sant Joan hospital. “I go to rehabilitation and surgery because I have sores on my foot, I have fibrosis in the lungs and only now am I starting to walk, but for long distances I still use the wheelchair.” The psychological consequences, on the other hand, have not made a dent in this woman with a cheerful and positive character. “I have the opportunity to live again and I am happy with that.” What he cannot forget “is the affection with which they treated me in the hospital, everyone without exception, as if I were someone else in their family.” He also recalls how affected the doctors and nurses were in that first wave “because patients were dying. They were made a rag ».
“I am still very tired and they are treating an eschar that remains on my foot”
“I was scared when I couldn’t breathe. The feeling was that of being underwater and not being able to get out.”
Asunción shared a stay in the ICU with Joaquín Sánchez, a doctor from the Digestive Service of the Sant Joan Hospital. Sánchez was one of the first health workers to become infected with covid, a virus that has hit the staff of hospitals and health centers with intensity. In his case, he does not know how he was infected around March 19, but he did immediately suspect what was behind the fever he had. “I locked myself in a room at home and they left my food at the door.” On March 30, he began to feel worse. “The companions asked me for a badge and they no longer let me leave the hospital.” Kaletra, chloroquine…. Sánchez was treated with the entire arsenal of drugs that in the first wave were used, desperately, to treat covid patients. “I had terrible diarrhea that affected my kidney, so they transferred me to the ICU.”
“I must be here now to my colleagues at the Sant Joan Hospital”
There he lived the hardest moments. «It gave me the cytokine storm that some patients suffer and I was drowning. There I was really scared, because the feeling was that of being underwater and not being able to come to the surface to breathe ». The high-flow oxygen carried him forward after 55 days in the hospital, 15 of them in the ICU. That “and the care of my companions, to whom I owe being here.” Today Joaquín Sánchez has no sequelae and this Friday he retires from the hospital, “not because I am unwell, but because this is not my medicine. The pandemic has made me not want to continue.
“In this year there are more lights than shadows. We have treatments and vaccines”
This year the pandemic has left figures and personal stories difficult to digest. But for the specialists there are more lights than shadows in these twelve months of race against time. “We still lack antivirals that reduce mortality, but we do have several treatments that improve the prognosis of the coronavirus,” explains Sergio Reus, deputy of the Infectious Diseases Unit of the General Hospital of Alicante. And Reus remembers those first months of the pandemic, “when we used treatments without being certain that they would work, and that was very frustrating.” Although he does not dare to predict what our life will be like in summer, this specialist believes that vaccines are also an element for hope. “It is incredible that in less than a year of a pandemic we have several such effective vaccines.
“I got infected and it was very frustrating not being able to help my teammates”
In the General Hospital, for example, the cases have practically disappeared since the staff were vaccinated. Reus was also one of the professionals who was infected in the first wave, at the beginning of March. The covid had three weeks off him, with the frustration of not being able to help his colleagues and of losing the power to be on the front line of a pandemic. Recognize that fear did not besiege those weeks of illness. “At first we thought that only older people who had previous illnesses died, it was only when I went back to work that I realized that there were middle-aged people who were very seriously ill in the ICU.” The General Hospital of Alicante, like the rest of the centers in the province, is leaving the third wave behind. A whole tsunami of patients “that has only been possible to attend because the entire hospital has dedicated ourselves to treating coronavirus, something unprecedented so far.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.