Testimony of a COVID-19 survivor, who came to fear for his life and left the hospital venerating the staff who cared for him.
“We are the champions, we are the champions”, sounded the famous song every time a patient was cured from the hospital, and José Molina, convalescing coronavirus and professor of literature, remembers what those hard and unforgettable days were like.
“I listened to the song all excitedly as they pulled me out the aisle in my wheelchair. Freddy Mercury’s fanfare sounded on speaker with applause and cheers. We are the champions, repeat. I knew that every time a patient came out of discharge, they’d play that song in the hospital. But it’s one thing to listen to her, and another very different thing is to live it. Especially when 27 days earlier I thought the coronavirus would take my life and it would be one of those figures that appear every day in the papers,” he said.
“Actually, I’ve been running away from COVID-19 for a long time” acknowledged Molina, who works here in Miami as a health insurance adviser and playwright. The man wanted to share his testimony “we can see the part of the hospitals that is very rarely reflected in the media.”
Molina’s entire family contracted the coronavirus. “I was always surrounded by people who had become infected. For example, my sister-in-law, who lives with us, tested positive. My sister-in-law’s daughter, husband and child too. My daughter, her husband and my grandchildren. And even though we comply with the distance measures and wash our hands. They all got infected. I was the last one to test positive,” he said.
Symptoms told the playwright to see a doctor. “I began a general malaise. A persistent dry cough. I had chills and fever. He tricked me by telling me it was all due to an allergy. But, on a matter of responsibility to my colleagues at work, I took the test and it turned out I was sick,” he said.
“I saw death”
The second day at the hospital was critical. “I was 100% oxygen masked, but my lungs weren’t filled with oxygen. They were going to send me to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to intubate me (put a ventilator on it). But then what I consider the touch of an angel happened. A nurse, of which I will never forget her face, told me that she had to breathe and that she would please take her hands. Together we did a breathing exercise. She gradually pulled me out of that state of shock. Anything could have happened that night. I remember, while doing the exercises with the nurse, I imagined the famous character of La Parka (the omen of death) in a corner of my room, looking at me in his mirrors and saying with a mocking smile ‘today you do not escape me’. But it wasn’t,” he said.
Molina believes that on the medical team that served him, he did the average and routine work that any medical team does at any Florida hospital. “They are exposing themselves to the disease on a daily basis. However, doctors, nurses and cleaning staff are not simply just doing their job,” he emphasized.
“Despite protocols that forbid them to overdo it with patients, you feel like they rub your skin with the back of your hand. They contact you. That rubbing translates into humanity,” he said.
Molina describes the cleaning staff as jovial, laughing and optimistic. “Every morning they would come into my room and ask me how I was doing. They would open my windows and tell me how beautiful the day was. They made me look outside, to heaven and in suffered me wanting to live,” he stressed.
And he said, “You’re very lonely in a hospital. Loneliness is crushing. What you want is to be with your family, with your wife, at home. I longed to sleep in my bed, so all these gestures of humanity are appreciated.”
One of the aspects that surprised Molina the most about the hospital was food. “I felt at a resort. I’m not exaggerating. I had in my room a perfectly clean bathroom, an impeccable sink, all very aseptic. Bed linen was changed every day.
In the hospital there is a food service that they called every morning and read me the breakfast menu, lunch menu and food menu. Always with two or three options. They had different types of milk, yogurt, I could order tea or jelly. The food presented them as if they were a restaurant dish.”
She then described it as “the dietitian called every day and asked what I thought of the food. I was looking into my health, my weight, whether I had any intolerances or if I didn’t like some kind of food to replace it with another.”
Still impressed, Molina remembers how the assistant one day told her, “I changed the yogurt you ordered for another one because you’re diabetic and that’s better for you.”
“That was another miracle,” he acknowledged.
Things get worse
However, a week before leaving the hospital, the playwright had a relapse. He developed intestinal bleeding. Hemoglobin dropped from 13.7 to 7.4.
“I had a lot of anemia, and I was exacerbated by shortness of air. With an endoscopy they detected a perforated ulcer that they cauterized at the time. Then I didn’t be able to move for three days,” he recalled.
From the moment he received a plasma transfusion, his recovery accelerated.
We are the champions
On August 8, the hospital’s head of pneumonia approached her room. She talked to Molina “and said, “You’re discharged.”
“I didn’t know what to do. I called my wife. Some nurses came over and helped me pick up my stuff. The wheelchair appeared on my doorstep. I sat down and started listening to Freddy Mercury singing that anthem to victory, masked but smiling faces clapped in my wake. It had managed not to be one of those figures that banalize in the media when a life goes out,” he said.
Asked if she remembers the name of the nurse who took her hands and helped her breath, Molina replied, “If I told you she’s called such a whore, she’d be leaving out the love, affection, devotion, and dedication of the rest of the staff. I don’t remember his name. That’s the mystery of things. But I think that nurse has the face of all the nurses who bravely deal with this horrible virus. Those are the champions,” he stressed.