The Madrid of bars, canes, grandparents in the sun does not exist today. Not only because of what there is no longer – nobody walks through Puerta del Sol, the bars are closed and the grandparents are threatened – but also because of what there is now in Madrid. A giant hangar where tourism fairs and international conferences used to take place is now a field hospital, filled with infected patients whom no one can visit. Next door, just four minutes away by car, a shopping mall with restaurants, businesses and cinemas is now a massive morgue. It is that the ice rink – where the children were going to skate in old Madrid – has the necessary cold for the maintenance of the corpses that are not enough to bury.
Spain is already the second country in the world with more fatalities due to coronavirus (after Italy). This means that it surpassed China in deaths, with 3,434 deaths. Contagions amount to 47,610, and one of the issues of greatest concern now is the contagion of health professionals, key pieces in the midst of a pandemic: about 4,000 nurses tested positive, 12% of all patients in Spain. Did you ever see something like that?
“Never,” Nerea answers, and makes a long “no” with her head.
– How would you describe it?
“A war, it seems like a scene of war.”
Who talks to Infobae, after a hard day in Madrid, is Nerea Álvarez, a nurse for 16 years. It is nighttime and she is away from her husband, Marcello, who is an Italian from Bergamo, the other red zone on the coronavirus map.
Nerea started – like many Spaniards – minimizing the situation but ended up crying in front of a screen with her mother and her friends, asking them not to leave home, not to go on vacation and spread the virus throughout the country, begging the authorities to close the city. The chronology of what counts could serve so that many Argentines who continue to violate the “total quarantine” take dimension of what follows.
“At first we all underestimate it. We were saying ‘well, this one comes out’, ‘more people die from the flu’. People did not think beyond themselves: “I am young, if I catch it I save myself.” The drama came later, nobody thought it was so contagious, “he says. The Spaniards still felt very far from what was happening in China, even from what was happening in neighboring Italy. But because of her husband, who was monitoring the health of her parents in northern Italy, Nerea began to be alarmed.
“I was going to go to the march for Women’s Day, which was massive here, and I decided not to. The Italy thing didn’t look good anymore ”, account. The same day – the same one in which they put restrictions on movement in Italy – in Spain the demonstration did not only take place on 8M: bars, discos were open, there were parties. “We continued with our pride as a country and said‘ because Italy does not have our health system. “
In hospitals they began to take protective measures when a patient with symptoms arrived – they put on special suits – but not in the offices where follow-ups are made for chronic patients, which is where Nerea works.
“We have treated many cases that were already coronaviruses. They already had the symptoms and we haven’t noticed. ” And he speaks, for example, of a patient who only had diarrhea and, a week later, tested positive. Health professionals were exposed, that’s why there are so many infections. Nerea meets a nurse, for example, who infected her mother and father. The young woman is isolated at home and her parents are hospitalized, one of them seriously. You cannot visit them.
When the government started taking sanitary measures, it was already running after the virus. The phone they gave to call and check symptoms collapsed, the tests ran out and it took days to test. Many were scared and did not want to stay at home to wait.
“When the patients became desperate, they were planted in the hospital and on the way they were all infected. The anguish of not being attended to on the phone number made them walk around the city like headless chickens infecting everyone. The ratio is that each one that becomes infected infects three others … that’s how they got out of control. ” Nerea tells it, precisely, to warn the rest of the countries not to make the same mistakes.
Nerea started writing on Facebook: “Please stay home.” “I have told friends: ‘It is very frustrating to see that we are killing ourselves, we are yelling at the patients who are crying, a terrible tension and you are going for a walk’” It was getting worse but the bars were still open. It took another week for the traffic ban to come. “But it turns out that those who teleworked went on vacation: the crowded highways, the places that had no cases, like Murcia, began to have, they took it to the whole country. Even with the restrictions, people took secondary roads and left, and ‘if they catch me, they catch me.’ ”
Health personnel quickly ran out of protective material: “The first thing that happened was that we ran out of material. A protocol came to you that said ‘if a patient with respiratory symptoms comes, you have to put on the green gown, the mask, ‘but there was none. They asked you to build a house with 100 bricks and I had two sticks ”.
In Argentina, the Trade Union Federation of Health Professionals has already made this issue clear: it is not enough with the applause every night, they need protection materials so that they do not catch it when the peak reaches the country.
What all that became, so quickly, we see it daily. “Days passed, it seems like years”Nerea continues. “I cry every other day ”. Health personnel are working with only one day off a week, they called medical students and retirees, which contradicted the extreme protection measures for those over 60 years old. There were so many infections that the hospitals were soon saturated.
Thus, they started to build a provisional hospital at IFEMA. How little IFEMA-next to the metro station “Feria de Madrid” – resembles its presentation on wikipedia today: “It is an entity that organizes fairs, salons and conferences at its facilities in Madrid, Spain. In its events, Spanish and foreign companies meet to generate business relationships, multiply their contacts and present all the news “.
Inpatients cannot receive visitsTherefore, those who arrive there are held incommunicado and the professionals who serve them do not have time to report on the evolution of each one. Nerea receives many messages from acquaintances asking if she can find out about someone’s fate. “It’s like you say goodbye to your family member and you are waiting to see if they call you to tell you if he is dead or if they call you to tell you they are discharging him.
“It is very distressing,” he continues. And, since he deals with chronic patients, his are patients he has known for a long time. “They called us from a residence of nuns, where they go when they are very old, to whom we are very fond because we have known them forever. He was caught one and now, of 16 there are 6 infected. With their age they are not even candidates to go to the hospital, when we find out we all end up crying ”.
The only way to reduce the risk that this that is happening will also happen in Argentina – he repeats, over and over again – is with isolation, so that the virus does not reach those who could not bear it.
Is that “collapse of the health system” is explained with examples: “The law of survival begins to run. If there is a two-person respirator, who has the best chance of survival? Well, for that one he goes to the respirator. It’s very hard”. Just yesterday the document arrived in which they ask that patients who do not have a chance of getting ahead be sent to hospitals.
“The document tells us how to sedate them to offer them a dignified death. It is very hard, they are patients that I know. This in the community of Madrid, here the disaster is already mounted, it is not so serious in other communities that took measures on time. And the worst is yet to come, I already know, because I am calling this week to those who are going to get worse the following week ”.
As if that were not enough, patients with coronavirus are joined by those who have other pathologies and need medical attention that today is entirely devoted to controlling the pandemic. “This week I lost an older lady with kidney failure who would have sent her to the hospital at another time and maybe she was not dying. Then what? Do we send her to the infected hospital to die alone or do we let her die at home, with her family? ”
Yesterday was a particularly difficult day for Spain, because during the geriatric disinfection operations the Madrid emergency units They found some abandoned elders living with other elderly people killed by coronavirus.
Yesterday also, among those who did test positive for coronavirus, the possibilities of continuing to spread even dead made the Municipal Funeral Service Company of Madrid announced that it will stop collecting victims for lack of protection material. The ice palace skating rink, meanwhile, is converted against time to a coffin depot.
For days, Nerea has returned home every night thinking about how to do to be able: how to make an apron with a waste bag, how to recycle a chinstrap if she did not see any patient, how to protect her husband from possible contagion, “so that He stays healthy and someone passes the food under the door if I catch it, ”he smiles.
“Pure instinct for survival”, says goodbye. He says that he has already lost several kilos, that he does not feel like eating, that he does his best to sleep and uses humor to laugh and go out for a few seconds. “This will take its toll over time, and what we still have to see. I already told my friends: when all this is over, we go on an all-inclusive vacation to a psychiatric hospital. ”