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Puntos de vista - a personal Spain blog

Musings about Spain and Spanish life by Paul Whitelock, hispanophile of 40 years and now resident of Ronda in Andalucía .

Covid-19 is a bastard! Don’t mess with it! A cautionary tale of our times
22 April 2021 @ 05:31

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.


Like 1


Weescottie said:
22 April 2021 @ 17:10

Oh what an absolute nightmare. I’m so glad your lovely wife is on the mend. Thank god for the care and perseverance of her family.

PablodeRonda said:
23 April 2021 @ 03:47

You've hit the nail on the head, Weescottie. Rita was "saved" by family and friends.
The Spanish Health Service, in normal times well regarded, is not coping with Covid-19, based on our experience. Here in the wider Ronda area people are dying who shouldn't be. I knew some of them, eg a local teniente alcalde, aged 53 and as fit as a butcher's dog; also one of my favourite bar owners, in his 60s but in good health. Another was admitted to hospital with a non-Covid related health issue, caught the virus in hospital, was transferred to a hospital in Málaga city, because ICU in Ronda was full. He subsequently died, though not from Covid ..... or so they said. All three were from the same village of just 900 inhabitants.
The German Health Service, clearly a superior operation, gave Rita the care she needed but has refused to pay for a rehabilitation programme because she didn't catch Covid in Germany, although she Rita still has to pay into the German Health System despite not being resident in Germany for 15 years. I guess it's all about the "bottom line" at the end of the day.
So, yes, thanks to all the family and several friends who happen to be medical people for their moral and actual support. But most of all our gratitude goes to Dana, Rita's physiotherapist niece, who has helped massively in re-building Rita's broken body.

animate said:
23 April 2021 @ 09:00

I know how frustrating Spanish hospitals are. A very heartwarming outcome, but you were so lucky. I hope Rita and yourself share many more years together. My best wishes to you both.

mac75 said:
24 April 2021 @ 07:47

A real shame to hear that. Very unfortunate, our experience with the Spanish health care system has been very good, thank God. Obviously, all countries are having difficulties coping, but still no excuse. Glad to hear your wife is recovering.

PablodeRonda said:
20 May 2021 @ 06:10

My wife Rita was well enough for us to go on holiday this week. We stayed within our province, although we could have gone anywhere in Spain.

We chose to go to Frigiliana, near Nerja, in the Axarquía.

What a stunning place! We rented a house in the casco antiguo, Casa Morango, a former ice cream parlour, for four nights.
It was my birthday on Tuesday, which was the excuse we needed to escape Ronda.
The owner of our casa rural gave us 4 nights for the price of 3. Tuesday night was my birhtday present from her. We've never even met!

We did nice relaxing things:

- Breakfast on the terraza of the Parador de Nerja, overlooking Burriana Beach and the blue Mediterranean beyond.
- sitting on the Balcón de Europa, watching people de paseo.
- a bit of light souvenir shopping.
- a light salad lunch back in Frigiliana.
- I had my first ever haircut in a Spanish barber's (Rita normally cuts it!)

- visitedTorrox-Costa by accident and loved it.
- breakfast and coffee for a couple of hours right by the beach.
- a stroll round the town.
- discovering a British-run charity shop and buying loads of artefacts.
- lunch back at the beach. We had a huge platter of shellfish to share. Expensive, but well worth it.
- Back to Frigiliana for a quick pre-dinner drink and un aperitivo.
- spent the evening eating tapas on our roof terrace until the sun finally set behind the mountains.

- Today we plan to go to the market in Frigiliana, before getting breakfast en route to Torrox-Costa
- where we are viewing a front-line studio apartment.
- at 3.00 pm is my official Birthday lunch at Restaurante El Sacristán in Frigiliana, where they do a mean steak au poivre (English style).
- at 5.00 pm I have an appointment to discuss the purchase of some artefacts on sale in one of our favourite bodegas in Frigiliana.

- Then, who knows? We shan't need to eat again for sure.

- on Friday we head home to Ronda. We shall return along the coast, passing through the pretty resorts of the eastern Costa del Sol as far as Málaga.
- A quick visit to Leroy Merlin and IKEA for things we cannot get up in the mountains.
- Then to a Covid Vaccination Centre in Ronda for our appointment to get our second jab (Pfizer).

What a great week we shall have had!

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