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My Covid-19 Diary - March 2020 to date

The Coronavirus pandemic has hit the world hard, with over 120 million global victims. I am British, married to a German and we live in Andalucía in the Serranía de Ronda. This blog contains articles I've written over the last 14 months which are about a weird life of curfews, lockdowns, masks, hand gel, rules and regulations and, for those of us who have been affected directly, the vicious after-effects of the virus, long-Covid, bereavement and financial ruin.

Covid-19 is a bastard! Don’t mess with it! A cautionary tale of our times
Sunday, August 8, 2021 @ 6:13 AM

This Coronavirus is no joke. Those who deny its existence belong in a looney bin. To date this bug, in just over one year, has killed over 3 million people world-wide, 127,000 in the UK, nearly 77,400 in Spain. Millions have had their health and way of life ruined. Families have been bereaved far too early as formerly strong and healthy young men and women have just crumpled and died. They couldn’t even attend the funerals to say goodbye to their loved ones.

We’ve all been affected in some way whether we live in Hong Kong, New York, London or Madrid or in Ronda, Montejaque, Jimera de Líbar or Serrato.

Many who caught Covid-19 seemed to get off relatively lightly, only to find later that they have developed what the English-speaking world is calling “Long Covid”, in Spanish, “pos-Covid síndrome”.

Pablo de Ronda has seen much of this suffering and death close-up in Montejaque and Ronda (both Málaga province), the area where he has lived for the last dozen years.

He tells the story of one lady’s 2021 so far.

A lady I know in Ronda, a German, who has been resident in the area for 15 years, has had just three healthy days this year and it’s nearly May already. Those three days were 1st, 2nd and 3rd January. On 4th January she began to display symptoms of Covid-19 contagion: bad cough, fever, tiredness, pains throughout her body.

Despite a call on 5th January to the emergency number, 061, the doctor didn’t think she warranted a home visit, nor did she need to attend Urgencias. She also didn’t need to be tested. What?

After repeated calls to 061 and her surgery, Centro Norte de Salud in Ronda, she finally got an appointment for an antigen test and a PCR test on 9th January.  She had to struggle to the surgery under her own steam for this, despite being quite poorly by this time.

Not surprisingly she tested positive, but it wasn’t until the evening of the following day that she was admitted to hospital, at the relatively new Hospital de La Serranía on the south side of Ronda.

Admission to hospital proved to be a long and tiring process; long gaps between various tests and hours waiting in a wheelchair on an oxygen drip until a room became available.

The whole thing was compounded by my friend’s poor Spanish (her fault, she freely admits, but nevertheless traumatic in the circumstances).

This lady, from Montejaque’s German twin town Knittlingen, disappeared from view for 10 days. To start with she could communicate with family and friends via WhatsApp or normal mobile phone calls, but she became so unwell and confused that she stopped answering for several days, which concerned everybody.

No information was available about her condition or her reaction to treatment. Her husband rang the hospital umpteen times and nobody could tell him anything, not the nurses, not the admin staff. Only doctors were in a position to give out information about the health of their patients, he was told. There were never any available to come to the phone. After “losing it” a couple of times the husband did eventually get some feedback for the family.

We then began to learn that our patient was being left to her own devices for hours on end. The staff did not respond to the alarm button if she was desperate for a painkiller or needed to visit the bathroom. On two occasions the nurses found her collapsed on the floor of her room, lying in her own excrement.

Later when asked whether she was embarrassed about that, this feisty lady said no – it served them right to have to clean her up, for not responding to her literal calls for help when the alarm button produced no results. Well, I think she certainly has a point!

In the end the family were so distraught at the treatment their loved one wasn’t getting that her husband demanded she be sent home from hospital. He was told that no ambulance was available for patients that self-discharge. You’ll have to book a taxi, they said.

I understand that her husband, also suffering from Covid-19 by the way and quarantined at home, threatened to get in his car, drive to the hospital and collect his wife personally, despite this being a “crime” or “breach of regulations” and subject to a heavy fine.

Guess what? She was transported home to her husband by ambulance the following day. Well done, that man!

Her husband reports that it was like having a “corpse” delivered. This poor lady spent the next 10 days in bed, not sleeping, not eating, not drinking, not doing anything that she knew, as a former nurse, she should be doing to improve her health.

She was hallucinating frequently, probably as a result of the cocktail of drugs they’d been giving her in hospital to ease her pain, and , quite frankly to keep her tranquilised.

Her poor husband, not suited to caring at all, did his best. He was available 24/7, hardly sleeping, preparing healthy food from scratch, which went into the bin, hunting for non-existent duty chemists in the middle of the night and keeping the house running.

On one occasion he managed to persuade his wife to have a bath – she was getting a bit stinky. What a nightmare! They got her into the bath ok, but couldn’t get her out again. Despite having lost 10 kilos in hospital (1 kilo per day, by the way – seems like a lot to me!) she had insufficient strength in her legs to help in exiting the bathtub.

They eventually managed to extract her after two hours, by which time the poor thing was shivering with the cold – it was still January, winter!

So, no more baths. The next day her husband bought a shower stool from Ortopedia Carreño,  the orthopaedic shop in Ronda, and that worked much better. He also managed to “scrounge” a wheelchair from Santa Bárbara, the health centre in the south of Ronda – not even their surgery.

After organising several telephone conversations with medical specialists, eg two German doctors, family friends both, and a German-speaking psychologist through Sanitas, their private health insurer, things began to look a bit brighter. Our patient responded positively.

Then, out of the blue came the most amazing offer. My friend’s niece, a physiotherapist in Germany, offered to take unpaid leave to fly to Spain to treat her aunt for 10 days. She came, accompanied by our heroine’s younger son, to help the husband, who was exhausted after his own bout of Coronavirus and the home caring of his wife.

The transformation was unbelievable. Three treatments a day, including physical exercises, massages and short walks in the fresh air, started to do the trick. She went from being a “zombie” to a relatively normal, though still very weak and emaciated – yes emaciated – lady. She made the effort to sit at the table for every meal. She even insisted on preparing a meal on one occasion, but it was too much for her really.

The family turned its attention to aftercare. Sanitas would pay for 10 sessions of physiotherapy. Great, they thought. They were to be sessions ON THE PHONE! How does that work?

In fact, the new reality is that nearly all medical consultations are telephonic in this Covid-19 health world in which we live.

Behind the scenes our victim’s three children had been plotting and they decided that when the niece and son flew back to Germany after their 10-day mercy mission, our friend would go with them. They were convinced that the German Krankenkasse (Health Service) was better equipped to provide the aftercare she needed.

The only person against this plan was our patient, but they just told her to be quiet and do what she was told. On 15th February she flew to Germany and was admitted to hospital in Ludwigsburg, Baden-Wuerttemberg, the following day for tests.

Then another potential disaster struck. The doctors detected a 9cm long growth on her ovaries. Cancer? What next? They operated within days, removed the tumour, did a biopsy – benign. What a relief.

But our friend is still not well. She has had a very bad dose of Covid-19, which has left her weak and in constant pain, and she has had a major abdominal operation.

After several days of recovery in hospital she went to her daughter’s for a period of convalescence. The doctor’s request for a month-long residential rehabilitation programme was turned down on the grounds that she had caught the virus abroad, ie in Spain, so it wasn’t their problem. What on earth is the world coming to? I think the family are appealing the decision.

What happened next? When she was fit enough, she travelled north by car to her physiotherapist niece for a further 10 days of treatment. And what a difference that has made!

This has turned out to be so successful so quickly that this lovely lady is coming back home to Spain to her husband and her friends. She arrives next Monday, 26th April at Málaga airport at 9.30am.

She has been away for two and a half months.

Readers, this is a true story. I know, because that German lady from Ronda is my wife.

The lovely Rita.



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