On August 26 Vanessa Martínez will be 29 years old in a bed at the Gregorio Marañón Hospital in Madrid. His hands are stiff, the tracheostomy scars still look tender, he no longer sees well, he has to learn to walk again and a week ago they removed the tube that was put in his bladder on April 21, when he entered the ICU. She spent 69 days there.
He has been on the floor since June 29 and knows that there are months left until he can stop seeing those four walls. “They saved me, and now they drown me. It is day after day after day after day … “he says. “I was irresponsible,” she also says.
Martínez never thought he would catch it. Not even when she was called from the Orpea de Algete nursing home, a town northeast of Madrid, which she entered as cleaning staff and where she became a nursing assistant.
“They told me that it was necessary, that although I had no experience it was easy. I said yes despite the risk because I needed to work, for my daughter. ” Allison, with Down syndrome, is eight years old and lives with her family in Honduras, where Martínez left in 2015 to work in Spain. “Treatment for medical complications is very expensive, and I had no other choice.”
The need and disbelief regarding the virus were two key factors: “I was not careful, I was without a mask. I was young, why would I get infected? And here I am, ”he said.
There he is after a journey that began on April 5 and that he remembers in a blurred way: “That day I arrived in a taxi at Gómez Ulla, I had a fever and infinite exhaustion. From there they took me by ambulance to Ifema’s field hospital. And I don’t remember any more ”.
Leyre Pérez, the infectious disease doctor who treats her, helps with the dates: “She entered the Marañón on April 17, they brought her from Ifema because she had complications. She entered the ICU four days later and we took her to the plant on June 29. ”
SERIOUS AND FOR A LONG TIME
It is one of the longest and most serious stays they have had in that hospital, through which 6,511 cases of COVID-19 have passed, 2,861 of them admitted in acute care and 248 in their critical beds.
All those seriously ill then require a long rehabilitation. Pérez explains that “keeping a patient asleep for so long requires heavy sedation to relax the entire musculature with the consequent loss of muscle mass and many residual effects.”
The lungs, especially. The digestive system, the cardiovascular system, the nutritional deficits that can affect other organs such as the eye. Reduced mobility.
When Martinez went up to the floor, she was unable to even hold her own head, which she now supports on a pair of pillows that lift her up. She misses a shower a lot: “They’ve been washing me with sponges for three months, until recently I couldn’t even go to the bathroom alone. They’ve been putting diapers on me … diapers. “
Despite this, the young woman smiles: Anabel García, one of the nurses who attend to her every day, has just appeared at the door. “My job is to take care of her, whatever it is.” This specialist assures that “it is not easy”: “They go through very complicated phases, of anguish because it is a very slow process, but also rewarding when you see that they are progressing. She is moving forward. “
Her progress now largely depends on a room on the ground floor of the hospital, the rehabilitation room, where she is led by a wheelchair attendant. They have, like Martínez, another 30 patients in follow-up.
Olga Arroyo, the head of the Rehabilitation service that includes Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy, explains that “Vanessa has neurological and neuropathic complications, in addition to involvement in the central nervous system, lack of balance, reflexes … All of this must be re-educated, taking into account the respiratory problem, in addition ”.
Recovery times for these patients are lengthening. “Rehabilitation will easily last about eight months and some will have sequelae and will not recover 100 percent.”
His rehabilitation doctor, Rubén Juárez, clarifies that what is important is “the most vital”. Sit, get up, brush your teeth, shower, eat … “They have to learn to do it again,” he says as he looks at Martinez, who tries to move his feet, rigid, propped up from the armpits on a walker.
An assistant and her physical therapist, Cristina Muñoz, hold her down. The specialist explains that progress is being slow: “If I had strength in both arms I could already comb my hair by myself, but at the moment you only get one arm to the nape of the neck.”
“He has strengthened his gluteus and is able to stay upright, although he still has no strength in his pelvis and legs.”
The maximum time it takes in effort is 30 seconds. “Little by little, although I already feel like running away. But no, I will have to go back to the room, ”says Martínez, who is once again seated in the wheelchair.
They put his feet, hands, and a tattoo appears on his left forearm: “Life goes on.” Martínez nods: “And I thank you for it.” (Isabel Valdéz. Photos Olmo Calvo, EL PAÍS.COM)