Andrea Vega is a reporter for Animal Politico, this story was translated and adapted by me;
“On May 2nd, at around 5:45 in the afternoon, I was left for dead. They whispered that there was nothing more to do. They supposedly had me anesthetized, but I was listening, it seems like the anaesthetic didn’t hit me. They said there was nothing else to do, and they started unplugging me. and one is faced with desperation because you think, no, I am still here, I am still here and I don’t wanna go”, says Carlos Garcia, sat on the bed’s edge in one of the COVID-19 recovery wards in the Juarez Hospital in Mexico City.
“ I heard the ‘pi pi pi’ of the lone machine still connected to me that registered my heartbeat. I was waiting for my heart to stop, but then a doctor arrived. They told her there was nothing else to do. She said ‘no, we’re not looking for dead people here, we’re here to save them.’”
Carlos remembers the doctor resuscitating him. “She told them to inject me, to plug me back in. She spoke to me, she shouted that I wake back up. ‘Open your eyes, Carlos, open your eyes’ I heard her scream until I opened them.”
The doctor’s name is unknown, nor does he remember her face. The morning shift team in the ward right now cannot even find out who she is. “It was probably an emergency room doctor from the night shift”, one of the nurses theorized. Carlos will always remember her as the person that gave him a second chance.
For the official statistics, Carlos’ second chance pumps a percentage, the 44% of people that live after being infected with COVID-19 and being intubated.
Up until the 11th of May, of the 1466 patients hospitalized and intubated, 817 (56%) would die.
After a month in hospital, Carlos not only forgot names and faces, but also hospitalization times and dates. He can only guess that it was a monday, a monday a month ago, around 7PM.
Carlos is 36 years old, he’s got a dark complexion and brown eyes that seem profoundly dark when seen next to the bright blue mask that covered half of his face. He’s a telecommunications technician for a Telmex contractor.
In the ward where he’s recovering, on the third floor, north wing, of the Juarez hospital, there are three more people. One of them is also a technician in the same field. There’s also a mariachi from Garibaldi, “From Garibaldi” Carlos emphasized. There’s also a Christian pastor.
Inside the wards, the nurses say, are people who were infected because they were out on the street without protection, or for running into people without it, and many of them are essential workers; employees and merchants.
“Telecommunications are essential work. We couldn’t stop. Additionally, these days with home office and what not, many people work at home and need the connection. The other aspect is that I work for commission. If I don’t install equipment, I don’t make money. So I had to go inside the houses, be in contact with many people, and we weren’t given any protective equipment, just antibacterial gel.”
It’s not as if he’d protest about it. Dressed in the hospital’s blue grounds and with his hands trembling on the bed, Carlos says that he, alike many, did not believe in Covid-19, “So I never cared much for it and I kept working. You don’t really understand it until it happens to you or someone close to you, maybe.”
He arrived in hospital after dealing with a fever for six days. He first went with a personal doctor; he prescribed injections. He’d administer them, and the fever would go down, but then it’d go back up. Then he faced difficulty breathing. Carlos lives alone, so he called his mom. “I said, ‘mom, I feel very sick’ she answered ‘Lets go to the doctor.’ We went to a hospital and it was then that she said ‘Go to the Juarez Hospital and have a COVID-19 test taken.’”
By the time he arrived, Carlos felt weak. He could barely hold the frame for his lungs’ X-ray scan.
“I was told my lungs were severely damaged, and that I’d be hospitalized. I was taken to the emergency room, had IV placed on me, and given paracetamol. The fever went down, and I felt better. I was two hours there and then I was taken to a second floor. During those two hours, I saw three people die, people who were intubated and couldn’t handle it.”
In the second floor, the one for seriously ill patients, he started feeling a frigid cold, and moments later the fever returned along side the difficulty breathing. He was given oxygen through a tube to the tip of the nose and then through a mask, but neither worked.
“Then I was told I’d be taken back down to the emergency room to be intubated. I expected the worst after witnessing three intubated people die down there. Carlos knuckles turned white as he clenched his hands, remembering the final round.
Sedated and intubated, Carlos swears that he’d hear everything. “Yes, I was half conscious, I was listening to everything, I knew my lungs were being aspirated to remove mucus with a prove. I heard when I was left for dead. But I was holding on, and when the doctor resuscitated me, I kept holding on.”
His family was the main reason to hold on, he says. His mom, his dad, his siblings, people he’s spent a month apart from. Not even on the phone.
“I still have no way of communicating with them, we’re not allowed to have our phones on us, I know it’s okay, because the doctors say ‘Ah we’ve spoken with them and told them this and that, they send hugs.’ But I miss them so much, it’s too much time without them.”
Four days ago, Carlos was sent upstairs to this recovery ward. For a week, around sixty people, maintenance, janitorial, and stretcher bearing teams along with biomedical engineers turned the third floor, which prior to the outbreak contained the north wing’s internal medicine area: cardiology, infectology, pneumology, and gastroenterology, into a Covid-19 ward.
Now, after being reconvertion all of those services are suspended: This is a COVID hospital, and it’s only attending people with said disease alongside emergency, hematology, and oncology.
In the recovery floor of the north wing, there are 27 patients, each ward has four. Most of the time, the patients are alone with each other. Even though they can’t see each other’s faces due to the masks, they see each other as friends now.
Carlos says he’s gonna make some changes to his life once he’s discharged. “I’m gonna take more care for myself, I was inconsiderate for not believing in this. I’m going to care for my family, and give them the value they truly deserve. I don’t want to worry about work so much. Sometimes one cares too much about work or finances and forgets about family.”
He hopes to return to work once his quarantine is over. “I still have two more weeks in isolation, after that I hope I still have a job. For now, I’m just going to recover, I don’t know where I’ll hold isolation. Maybe at my mom’s house, but isolated. I can’t hug them yet, but I’ll be there”
As a matter of fact, Carlos retells Animal Politico about his experience just two hours before being discharged from the Covid recovery ward. At around 2PM on this monday, May 11th, he’ll leave on a wheelchair, pushed by a nurse, drowned in applause by medical staff.
He crosses the exit door labeled “COVID discharges.” A beige car awaits him, parked near the entrance to respiratory emergencies. Two men exit the car, the nurse pushes the wheelchair up until they meet. There are no hugs, social distancing doesn’t allow for it. Only one of them dares to touch him, messing his hair, it’s his brother.
Carlos enters the car, and it exits the hospital. Meanwhile, a 30-something year old woman bursts into tears next to a white tent. She’s a family member of a patient who, most certainly, just got hospitalized. She must wait for the first reports and then go home, where good or bad news will await over the phone.
For Carlos’ family the worst is over. Other patients, other families are just starting the battle. Other nurses, those in emergency and critical care, shed tears when patients crash and they’re unable to care for them. The nurses and doctors that care for Carlos applaud and celebrate his departure from hospital today.