He had been in wars and guerrillas, where he was threatened with short and long weapons, his adrenaline rushing, but this time it was different. He would be a survivor of the pandemic. From that swampy immensity it would rise again.
Roberto Andrade Rodríguez, 43, could represent those who escaped death, not his mother; His father, two brothers, nephews and other relatives, meanwhile, dodged the virus that, instead, would take him to the hospital, where they kept him with needle sticks and lungs with high-flow oxygen of 37 liters per minute.
Dr. Alejandro Ávalos, seeing the severity of the patient, suggested treating him immediately, and then they took him with his colleague
“Don’t move,” Alfaro asked.
“You’ll be fine,” Nurse Sinaí Álvarez Torres encouraged him.
They would keep it upside down.
Just five days.
When he got to the hospital he could barely breathe. He was getting too tired. It was deteriorating little by little. Oxygen was his lifeline.
In one of these, the cameraman and filmmaker, hardened in the trade for more than 20 years, recalled that he had covered wars and guerrillas, and that he had been threatened with weapons of various calibers, as if to die in a hospital bed.
And for the first time he cried.
And at the same time courage was injected. He had other patients as neighbors, and yet not all of them would resist the onslaught of the virus.
It all started on February 27.
On that date he was diagnosed with covid-19. Twelve days he was at home. Later, he would enter the Ajusco Medio hospital of the Ministry of Health of the Government of Mexico City. Three days before, his mother had been admitted to the Covid-19 Temporary Unit, Centro City Banamex.
“I arrived because I was already very tired, even to be able to get up to the bathroom; After taking four, five steps, I couldn’t stand them anymore, ”recalls Roberto, who brought an oxygen tank that cost him 800 pesos per night.
His carnal Erick had alerted him:
“Brother, you look very bad.”
Roberto had an oximeter. He had read on the internet that if the oxygenation dropped below ninety, the situation was already complicated, so he needed oxygen. By then his parents, two brothers, three nephews and sisters-in-law were already infected.
What Roberto did was get oxygen for his father; but in the end, on the recommendation of the pulmonologist, whom he consulted by telephone, the 15-liter per minute tank was for him.
First it consumed two liters per minute; then they rose to ten, until they reached 15, at the same time.
On Tuesday, March 9, when he arrived at the hospital in a wheelchair, assisted by his cousin Carlos, Roberto felt the effect of someone holding his breath underwater and lifting his head to exhale.
They took him from Iztapalapa to the Hospital Ajusco Medio, where there were special tents, and there they asked him if he wanted to stay there; she said yes, of course, although she felt some fear.
They told him:
“You’re going to Section B.”
Two orderlies appeared, Omar Gómez and Gabriel Almaraz, and one of them blurted out: “Don’t worry: you’re going to be fine here, we’re going to save you here.”
And on the way he spotted patients with masks on stretchers, some on oxygen and others intubated.
They arrived at Section B, bed B-8, he with 72 saturation, and immediately Dr. Andrés Alfaro Rodríguez informed him that he should be face down for five days, without eating or drinking anything at all. “We are going to administer everything intravenously.”
More nurses came and fitted him with a handful of syringes and gave him an endless questionnaire. “He was practically dead while he was alive,” recalls Roberto.
“What did you feel?”
“I could no longer breathe without oxygen; without oxygen, I would die. I had already consumed 15 liters per minute at home.
“A lot of people died from lack of oxygen.”
—Yes, indeed, for not attending a hospital on time; because he remembers that many people were scared and ignorant of saying: “I don’t want to die in a hospital.”
“How many syringes did they put you in?”
“I’m not going to exaggerate: they gave me all the medicine through the same vein.” I was bitten ten to twelve times a day. On the arm, on the stomach, on the navel, everywhere.
Roberto sends a text by WhatsApp:
Not all of us can be saved. The doctors and team make him want to, but many times it is not in their hands. They put everything on their part, but they do not decide what covid-19 brings for one. It is a disease that you do not know if it is going to kill you; they are warriors, they are heroes.
Unfortunately death is becoming a habit and that is wrong. The pain is strong but different; Before, seeing a family member die was a total paralysis; today, unfortunately, it is a normal paralysis; And that, that is very wrong because then, where the hell are we standing? Did death become normal?
Or has it always been normal, without realizing that it has always been like that and today we discover ourselves normal? I do not know anymore! Or maybe we are always just normal. Or maybe that brought this pandemic? Or maybe we had this feeling without expressing them and without realizing it?
So many deaths, so many tears, so much pain, so many things that in the end you have to go on and on with everything in tow and with your heart ahead, to be invincible and give everything to be better in this life.
What I say are words from the heart of someone who suffered from this pandemic like many in the world.
I love you mom and you will always be on my mind and in my heart.
“What was the most complicated?”
—When Dr. Andrés tells me: “face down”, “without taking any food”, and when they give me oxygen: “No, it needs more”, and doctor Andrés orders: “Bring the tower”.
And Roberto thought what would be that of “the tower”. Then he knew it was “high flow oxygen.” That is to say, a machine that reached up to forty liters per minute; but they only put 37 for that same time.
“Did you ever feel scared?”
—Yes, when they told me: “And if your body doesn’t react to this, we’re going to have to intubate you.”
—And what did you think.
-Worst. Because of all intubated, according to statistics at that time, only 8 percent are saved. And I thought: “Chin, the clown is going to load me; I’m going to die”.
“Did you cry?”
“I cried, yes, but on the second day.” I’m going to tell you when I cried: a psychologist came, I was face down, and she said: “What do you have, why are you so sad, why are you crying?”
“And what did you answer?”
—I told her: “Because it is not possible, doctor, that I, who have been in wars and guerrillas and they have been aimed at me in the head, for more than two or three occasions, with pistols and submachine guns, so that I come to die in a hospital bed ”. “That’s why I cry.”
“And what did he tell you?”
“Well, calm me down.” And it started with therapy. And the truth reassured me a lot. Very much.
“And the nurses?”
—My friends Gabriel and Omar, because I consider them my friends… Well, I tell you: I only had the right to one call a day or every other day, but they were very good people and they communicated with my wife.
I had a doctor and a nurse all the time. “It was a treatment as if I were in a private hospital, the truth,” says a grateful Roberto with the attention. “Not just with me, but with all the patients. They looked like little ants. They had everything calculated ”.
—One day the nurse tells me: “today it’s your bathroom.” Bath? “Yes,” he said, and they bathed me on the bed. And to do your physiological needs they brought you a comfortable. It’s an awesome deal; I was amazed.
Twenty days he was hospitalized.
“They saved my life,” concludes Roberto, who continues his therapy at home, helped by his wife and two children.
For a month he brought an oxygen concentrator, day and night, which caused some sequelae in his lungs and something known as “peripheral vertigo”, as he was diagnosed at the IMSS.
“What about the lungs?”
—Now they are working around 75 percent; I have something called pulmonary fibrosis; but as time goes by I will be better.
“What did they tell you when they released you?”
– “We don’t want you back.” “You have a great advantage: you arrived almost dead, but now you have to make it happen with the pulmonary exercises.” I also have to go to the National Medical Center for a consultation. And they sent me to do a skull study.