Edgardo Monsalvo is doctor, he was infected with coronavirus and was discriminated against. The professional provides a detailed account of each of the instances that he went through in late March and early April of this year. The dates, the moments in which each thing happened are very clear. The names, the faces, the words. The gestures: the good ones and the others.
2020, which is already an unforgettable year for everyone, will leave an immense mark on the life history of this 56-year-old man who graduated from the Faculty of Medical Sciences of RosarioHe made his residency at the Provincial Hospital and years later he settled in Armstrong, about 100 kilometers from the city.
It was there, when due to an intra-family contagion, during the early days of the pandemic, a sore began to open in him that is already closing, but which he needs to account for in order to reflect on the emotional impact of the disease. Covid-19, which affects the respiratory system, but which can become an almost lethal weapon when it is a reason for discrimination, blaming and violence.
The posters that some neighbors hung to doctors and nurses in the buildings asking them to leave, the escraches on social networks that include even photos of addresses or absolutely personal situations and the attacks on WhatsApp groups had their peak when the first infected people appeared , but they have not fully yielded. And even though Edgardo Monsalvo hastens to clarify that “gratitude is greater than any complaint” and that throughout the process he received great signs of affection and the immeasurable support of the colleagues who attended him in Rosario, the truth is that he had a hard time because he was harassed and criticized for suffering Covid-19. That is why today he wishes that no one else had to tolerate the misery caused by irrationality and fear, because ultimately, the human being usually rejects – and in the worst way – what terrifies him.
Several weeks before the strict quarantine was imposed in Argentina, health workers had begun to internalize the need to prepare and prepare institutions to have everything they need to face a virus that had awakened in China and it was wreaking havoc in Europe.
That he arrived in the country was a matter of weeks or days. The chinstrap and social distancing were just emerging as essential measures to minimize the risk of contagion and although the wave was close, there was still a kind of spring on these sides.
With 30 years as a doctor, working at the Hospital de Cañada de Gómez in the morning and consulting in the afternoon, Edgardo understood the need to commit everything possible to delay or stop the consequences of the epidemic as much as possible, and he joined without doubt it to the emergency committee that was assembled in Armstrong.
The first cases of Covid-19 were just appearing nationwide. A single chance encounter of a few minutes with her daughter’s boyfriend, who is an orthopedic surgeon in a private sanatorium in Rosario, and who contracted the virus although he was asymptomatic, was enough for Edgardo to catch it. The same as his wife, also a doctor, and probably his daughter and his wife’s son, who although they were close contacts and even had symptoms, were never swabbed (but that’s another part of the story).
The quarantine was ordered a few days later. But at this point, this doctor, who decided to immediately isolate himself, like his family, was already dealing with Covid-19 in his body. Of the whole group, he was the one who had the worst time. He lost his sense of smell completely, he had a fever, he felt terrible pain and extreme tiredness, which forced him to be hospitalized. There he needed oxygen (with a mustache), he spent five days in the general ward (two in critical care). He came out with five kilos less and a major weakness.
“Just as the doctors and nurses who assisted me showed empathy, responsibility for their profession and a love for their patient, there was also the other, because when I was discharged and I returned to my city I could not believe what was happening,” he recalls. .
And what was happening was nothing more than a fierce campaign of attacks against him and his family. They even threatened to set him on fire. They accused him of movements and actions “that were never, ever true, but the accounts were so painstakingly armed that many believed them.”
Even some people who had worked side by side with him in the emergency committee disappeared and did not offer help when he needed it the most, as he mentions.
“When I was in therapy I felt that I had overturned with the car and I was tumbling and tumbling and I didn’t know when it stopped. But the pain of the accusations and that they point that way to you was something totally unexpected that led me to think of leaving the place where I live and have practiced my profession for 30 years. ”
“Medical attention, the intervention of professionals can save you, but love and support are equally important,” says Edgardo, who recalls that one night, while in therapy, one of the nurses at the British Sanitarium, where he was treated, He sat down to accompany him for over an hour. “That was an unforgettable gesture and more than necessary, as was the affection of colleagues, kinesiologists, staff in general, who understand the disease-health process as I understand it: from the scientific point of view, but also from affection, love, and containment, which are as important as attending to the symptom ”.
Edgardo returned to his activities little by little, after several negative swabs and extensive isolation. At the beginning of the 12 or 15 patients I saw daily, only 3 or 4 returned. Fear does not serve reasons and the lack of knowledge about the Covid-19, added to the terror that some neighbors instilled in those who became ill, took their toll. But the pandemic progressed, there was more and more information and awareness that this can happen to anyone and patients began to approach the office again.
“The return was difficult, but fortunately there are many people who never walked away and prioritized love. Without doubt the appreciation is greater than any complaint, “he says.
The doctor has already donated plasma twice for the experimental treatments that are being carried out. These days he received the news that a patient who was ill recovered quickly with the serum that had been taken from him. “When they call me to donate, there I am,” he said with a smile.
“Perhaps donating is a fundamental step to finish healing what still hurts inside,” he added: “The pain that this pandemic brings can be a great raw material to improve as human beings and especially to ask ourselves big questions.”