Day 15 of the Covid 19 Emergency in Cuba: My Doctor Friend Has Become a Patient

Saturday, the authorities have updated the figures of Covid-19: six deaths and 288 testing positive. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 4 April 2020 — Today has been a bittersweet day. At home we have all felt good but a doctor friend is isolated and suspected of having Covid-19. He has spent years saving lives in a dilapidated Havana hospital but now it is his that is in danger. Very prepared and committed to his profession, he has now become a patient. My applause tonight will be dedicated to him.

This Saturday, the authorities have updated the figures for Covid-19 on the Island, which has caused six deaths and 288 people testing positive. Of particular concern are the eight critically ill patients and the three seriously ill people, confirmed by sources from the Ministry of Public Health. The incidence of the disease in medical personnel is still a question mark.

My friend, a doctor, now isolated, tells me that the official warnings came late, that the protection measures took too long to arrive and that by the time he began to feel the first symptoms, he had been crying for more work gloves for weeks. “Before this, I received three or four a day to treat all patients, but with coronavirus you can’t do it that way,” he tells me on WhatsApp, his only current link with his family and friends.

I think about him, in an place of isolation where he cannot offer attention, but receives it, and it makes me sad. As a journalist, when I imagine a situation in which I couldn’t report what is happening, the feeling I get is thoughts of impotence. The forced and necessary quarantine is not just a hard blow for the economy and mobility of a country, but also for the professions that need to be in contact with people and with reality.

So among my great proccupations, along with the health of my loved ones and my own, is the situation of people like my medical friend who has become a patient and that of so many independent reporters that I know for whom the emergency has significantly reduced their ability to work, while the repression does not spare them. There is no scheduled applause at nine o’clock every day for the press, but it turns out that without them we would know little or nothing about the sacrifice of doctors, the agony of the sick or the resilience of societies.

Personally, today I have dedicated a brief tribute to all those journalists who keep us updated. It has not been complicated, because from the time I get up, my coffee has the flavor of reporting, my life revolves around the news and up to eight out of ten calls that come into our telephone line are from someone who wants to report an event fact, a mishap or get details of some happening. Our professional life is totally merged with our personal space.

On this 14th floor we try to stay healthy for our family and for our readers. Industries stop, roads empty, discos close their doors but who could imagine a world without news right now. We have a tough challenge and an immense responsibility: Who is going to tell us what is happening?

Years ago, when my son was young, I realized that as long as I had to take care of him, I hardly got sick. If any discomfort came, it would last me a few hours, hardly a day. I understood that when you are aware that you are looking out for someone else or others, it helps to strengthen us, at least emotionally and mentally to overcome adversities. It does not mean that we become invulnerable or immune, but that we learn to cope with difficulties knowing that someone urgently needs us to be healthy.

Readers are anything but children or patients, anything but vulnerable beings, anything but people who depend on us journalists. But while they are there with their voracity for information, their criticism of each of our reports, their harsh opinions when we are wrong and their words of encouragement when we are right, getting sick in a newsroom is something that we can hardly afford.

Today the onion that I planted a few days ago on the terrace of the Editorial Office has sprouted, we have named the new dog Chiqui because she is still small although she threatens to become Maxi, and we ate the last egg we had left from rationing. “We are breathing, no one with a fever, no one with a cough,” we optimistically respond to all the friends who call.

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