What started out as a New York trip to spend the carnival with the family suddenly turned into a relentless fight against the coronavirus. Amid its own dramas, the doctor Marise Gomes completes a year saving or burying patients vanquished by COVID No brazil.Night is approaching in the field hospital of Santo Andr, a municipality 20 km from So Paulo. The parking lot of the multisport stadium, which previously used to host athletes and fans, in a blink of an eye is packed with ambulances bringing young and old people struggling to breathe.
In what was once a basketball court, Marise and a group of doctors and nurses serve dozens of patients with COVID-19, which killed more than 320,000 people in Brazil. Often, a patient’s cough overcomes the noise of ventilation devices.
“Now our patients are practically young, who have no comorbidities, who respond poorly, and who die, to our surprise,” says this 53-year-old surgeon, with a tattoo and nose ring.The explosion of the pandemic surprised Marise in the country where she was born, but she has visited little since she settled in the United States fifteen years ago.
She came to Brazil in February 2020 to enjoy the carnival at a time when several countries were already glimpsing the magnitude of the approaching tragedy.
Enemy at home
She could have engaged in the fight against new pneumonia in New York, where she works and lives with her husband, Jack, a 74-year-old American lawyer, who arrived in So Paulo when the pandemic accelerated in the United States. But he chose to stay, giving in to the premonition that Brazil would face difficulties.
“I thought about going back, I communicated, but in a way it was 14 years when I didn’t see a patient in my country”, he reports. “As a Brazilian, I thought I could be more useful here”.
She made contact with colleagues from the college and in April started working at the Santo Andr field hospital, with 180 beds and neighboring city of So Bernardo do Campo, where her family lives, in the industrial belt of the economic capital of the country.
The pandemic began to explode in the country as President Jair Bolsonaro minimized the effects of the virus and opposed measures of distancing, claiming its economic effects.
COVID-19 soon knocked on this specialist’s door. The virus took two of her uncles, while she, as well as thousands of doctors and nurses, worked full time to meet a growing demand.
“People said to me, ‘What are you doing here? Come back!’. As if there were any ‘l’ that were perfect,” he recalls.
The desire to be with his mother, the three brothers and his nephews became a mirage. Her husband rented a house on a nearby beach and she was juggling to avoid putting her mother at risk.
“It is difficult to return home and feel rejected in some way … So, contaminated”, she says. But care prevented it from getting infected and now, already vaccinated, breathes more relieved.
However, relative tranquility. Her eyes water and her voice breaks when she remembers the suicide of her sister, a 47-year-old health professional, in November. A depression she struggled with for years won the battle.
“a lot of pain together, but at the same time I have seen so many people with a pain so much greater than mine”, he says.
Before ending an exhausting day, Marise regrets not seeing “a change in behavior” in Brazilians just over a year after the detection of the first case of covid-19 in the country.
On the streets, the use of masks is not required by law, clandestine parties are recurrent and vaccination is advancing slowly.
“The tomographic images that we see are terrible images in young people of 22, 23, 25 years of age. Scary. I feel fear, fear for the population (…) because [os doentes] they cannot understand the magnitude of what they are having or that they will live in the future “, he confesses.
The doctor says he hopes to return to New York soon, where he built his life. Until that day comes, she will continue to face the worst of the pandemic alongside other doctors and nurses, with hospitals on the brink of collapse and death records.
“I am giving everything I have,” he says.
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