Por Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – I knew that the new Coronavirus variant was running more rampant, almost out of control, in my municipality of Mayari and across the Holguin province. It was clear that lockdown measures and protocol weren’t working and you could sense danger in the neighborhood, with suspicious cases popping up here and there, a neighbor who suddenly died with symptoms and a lot of people saying that she just had a “bad case of the flu”.
My nephew was the one who passed it on to me. As he’s so young, his symptoms were so mild that he didn’t even think it was COVID. I was the first person in my house to show symptoms. I suddenly felt really unwell, on August 6th. Really, really unwell. I went from feeling great to not being able to stand for longer than 15 minutes, with a fever of 38.5 degrees Celsius and the strength of a 5-year-old child.
I was like that for four days, isolated in a small room in the house, believing that I could protect the rest of my family. However, everybody was already infected and in the incubation stage, it was just a matter of hours. When I came out of this phase, my wife began showing symptoms, and my little girl the day after that. Then, my parents, my sisters, the rest of my nieces and nephews and in-laws. Even though we all live in different houses, we normally have a lot of contact with each other.
I soon found out that the entire neighborhood was like me, and the neighborhood next door and the one next to that one too, in just a matter of days. In short, the entire municipality and province. Well, I was talking to friends from other provinces on social media, and I got the idea that the entire country is in the same situation.
I suffered aches and pains, a loss of appetite, a constant cough, muscular and joint pain, lost my sense of taste and smell, and worst yet, the fear of dying. I’m still half-asthmatic.
Yep, the reality is that you become afraid of dying, of suddenly getting worse, being taken to the hospital and never coming back. You see your neighbor, an old school friend, a person from the other street, a friend’s husband, the old lady on the corner, being rushed to the hospital and never coming back, and you fear you’ll be next or one of your loved ones. Because there isn’t any oxygen, or Interferon hasn’t come in, or antibiotics have run out.
You’ll see, it won’t kill any of us! was our phrase to give each other strength.
In the three weeks we all had COVID, nobody came to check on us. Somebody came when we’d already been through it, a doctor had promised to examine us but he couldn’t keep his word. Nor was there a doctor at the GP’s office because the doctor that works there also had COVID, as well as her family. There still isn’t a doctor.
I didn’t even think about going to the hospital or to the polyclinic. Just like everyone else, we were more afraid of isolation centers than of the virus. Plus, my nephew’s family, which is where we caught the virus from, went to the Doctor on Call several times and never had a PCR or rapid antigen test done, because there weren’t any tests. They were sent home with the grandfather really sick. The grandfather died from COVID in the end, at the hospital when they finally decided to admit him. Just like 90% of deaths, they failed to mention it on his death certificate because he never had a test done.
I shared the news about us having COVID with some friends, and they mobilized immediately to get us medicines. Some friends in the capital managed to get medicines and even though it wasn’t easy, they sent them to Santiago de Cuba, 130 km from my house, and it cost me dearly to get them picked up by a scooter. However, the most important thing was that I had medicines for me and my family in less than 72 hours. A great privilege, because no medicines could be found in Mayari for whatever the price, people were only drinking infusions and steaming.
Feeling out the abyss between official statistics of deaths and infections and the reality of the spreading virus, has been a great feat. It’s different in local media, maybe because it’s harder to block out the sun with a finger, and they publish more realistic data. Then, you see Dr. Duran give much lower numbers or nothing on the national TV news.
It seems that when the epidemiological situation is under control, data is quite realistic, but when things get tough, it’s a whole different story. I’ve been able to confirm this firsthand.
It’s been a tough experience because everything is very bleak and uncertain when you are sick at the same time as those around you, and when you know that so many people didn’t make it, you realize that living is a privilege.