April 27 predicted for Paula Yinet Burey Utria another of the days waiting to rejoin the new daily life imposed by the COVID-19. Recently, she had lived through intense and tense hours.
Las Tunas, Cuba.- At the Doctor Luis Díaz Soto Central Military Hospital, Paula had tried herself along with 50 other young people; seeing the face of the SARS-CoV-2 was, in the beginning, an intimidating task, but growing up knowing she was useful, gave her with the necessary courage to recognize this mission as an unforgettable experience.
On those roads, the mind would walk on that spring day in which she waited for the result of a PCR to be able to rejoin her school. Perhaps she went further and her imagination flew to the tranquility of home in the Club Familiar community, in the municipality of Las Tunas. All that and more she could think, the decrease in activity after days of adrenaline, usually causes anxiety, uncertainty and a feeling of emptiness for those who wait.
The positive result of that exam changed everything. "It was a hard and unexpected blow", she tells me now with a sweet voice that transmits a feeling of warmth and kindness. As I listen to her I think about the acts of heroism performed by our young people. Even those people who like Paula inspire tenderness and delicacy, impose, in the hardest moments, the essential force of the spirit.
"Another colleague and I tested positive. The news hit and surprised us because we were asymptomatic. Soon, the protocol was activated; we were isolated and hospitalized, as well as our contacts. Once in the hospital, the assistants and doctors were the same colleagues. The attention was very careful and of extreme care for every detail of our health and related to hygiene, safety and conditions during hospitalization."
Paula was infected during the days of volunteer work at the military hospital, known as Naval, one of the health institutions that treated positive, suspicious and seriously ill patients with the COVID-19. This assistance unit also reported an event with various infections.
When the new coronavirus broke into the national reality, Paula was in her fifth year at the University of Medical Sciences in Havana. This young lady loves Medicine as much as military life and the Alma Mater has united these two passions.
"Teaching includes specific content to the major and other more specific military training such as Infantry, Shooting, General Tactics, Logistics, physical training ... Our training includes care for the war wounded, the organization of services in conflict warfare, the deployment of a field hospital, how to proceed in the event of a disaster, among other knowledge related to subjects, for example, as the Tactical Organization of Medical Services or Disaster Medicine.”
This 2020, a pandemic that has been primed with older adults tested the knowledge and essences of the young woman from Las Tunas who dreams of specializing in Internal Medicine. Due to the characteristics of her career profile, while others returned home; Paula remained in school, away from family and at the foot of those in need of the wisdom of their studies and future profession.
The confrontation with the COVID-19 also demanded the support of the students, who thus had the unique possibility of verifying on the ground how a blocked and underdeveloped country was facing a global pandemic. The Cuban experience is unique in the world. Paula knows and appreciates it.
"A call was made to collaborate as assistants because there was a lack of staff. They asked us if we were willing to step forward for 15 days. The fifth-year students agreed and formed the first brigade, we named it Ernesto Che Guevara."
With great fear, but with the commitment to honor the lineage of the Argentine-Cuban revolutionary and doctor, they began work. In the hospital, some were laundries, cleaning assistants, food deliverers, nursing assistants ... whatever was necessary.
"It corresponded to me in the Emergency Center, where all the patients were received and distributed, whether they were suspects or confirmed ones. That area was considered a red zone because all the people arrived there and that is the entry point to the institution.
"We worked for 12 continuous hours of inpatient care. Our job was to help the Nursing staff, bring lunch to patients, water if needed, disinfect the media, sometimes we supported the Information Service or if the stretcher-bearers were needed, we were there for whatever was necessary, including answering patients' questions because we had been prepared about the characteristics of the disease, its treatment, and so on."
Paula talks about everyone and mentions her companions, "quixotes" also in this offensive against a mill whose winds still shake humanity.
"We felt important because imagine being our age and already being there, on the battlefront, against the pandemic ... I am very proud to have accomplished that task."
She confesses that she felt fear and calmed her nerves; but that it was impossible not to assume as her own this common struggle, mobilizing wills and acts of dedication.
"Many of the comrades of us who had graduated from the career joined the brigades sent to other countries. And so, well, we took that mission in the "Luis Díaz Soto" like ours, that of our time. Our country needed us and we were there."
Thus she walked during those 15 days, multiplying to alleviate the pain or anguish of some and the workload of others; dressed in gloves, green suit, gown, hat, glasses, mask ..., dressed in love.
On the 13th day of her isolation after she accomplished her duty, Paula was at the gates of discharge. Then the alarms went off and the news shook her. Although risk was part of the calculation of possibilities, she did not foresee it.
"I never expected it. They did the real-time PCR as established by the protocol in the country for those who worked inpatient care in these Health units and I did not imagine being positive because I had not had any symptoms." This is how she remembers the experience when she was diagnosed with the COVID-19. Upon receiving the news, she doubted whether to tell her parents about it; but...
"The family was very concerned. Imagine there were tears! All with great fear and always on the lookout for every detail and the reactions caused by the medications and so on ...", and she leaves her voice an impasse and then returns with the description of attention painstakingly polished to the smallest detail and an example of how much is done to care for and save patients. Interferon, Herberferon, blood tests, chest tomography, PCR on several occasions and other details stand out in the count of those days of anxiety.
14 days after- I imagine that counted by seconds - the samples were negative and she was clinically discharged and then, the epidemiologist. At home, her relatives were waiting for her. A week later, the arrival was in itself a reason for happiness; joy exceeded because the "coronabug" is not a half-hearted thing and the young lady of the house fought, victorious, this battle.
"They did an activity with the neighborhood and recognized the work of those who helped the elderly by bringing them medicine and other supplies, also the medical and nursing students who participated in the inquiry, all the neighbors active in this stage. The reception was very nice and very emotional. I was proud and grateful."
Free from fright, in the warmth of home, surrounded by family, that nightmare is now for Paula Yinet Burey Utria a life experience. One of those obstacles along the way that helps to grow, even if occasionally lose sleep; but not even in her worst moments did she resign, and leave her truth clear and well-established: "I would do it again, even if I ran the same risk." Her sweet voice is now resolution, firmness, conviction.