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"I'm where I need to be"

The experience of a volunteer in a nursing home with COVID-19.

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Beatriz is an executive in Madrid, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, and has two teenage children. A couple of weeks ago a friend convinced her to cooperate in the nursing home she was working for. The nuns could not cope, there were 40 elderly people and the first one to get sick was one of the nuns who took care of the geriatric ward. They needed urgent help and Beatriz accepted. 

 

Today I gave last rites to a woman. I have been a volunteer in this old people's home in Madrid, at ground zero of COVID-19, for a couple of weeks and I know that this is where I have to be. 

The doctor, who, by the way, moved to the residence from another city seeing the tremendous situation in which the grandmothers find themselves, told us that Flora was going to die. So it was Sister Leonor and I, we prayed quietly because she still had her ear, and the nun took off her mask and touched her face just so  Flora would leave with the feeling of another human being's touch.

I don't think that even in one lifetime there is time to live what I am experiencing, which changes this. A phrase from Doris Lessing comes to mind that explains very well what I felt the first day after leaving the residence: "You have fewer needs the more you feel the needs of others". 

That day I arrived home at 3 pm after more than seven hours of hard work and, in the morning, still awake, I was thanking the person who considered me 'fit' to help through Whatsapp. 

I don't believe in coincidences. 

Since I was 15 years old my sister and I were forced by my mother to help out in an abandoned old people's home on Sunday afternoons. That made me respect the gray hair and have had the privilege of hearing personal stories that have been true pearls of wisdom in my life. It made me obsessed for years with having my own home as soon as possible so that I wouldn't look like this. This week has given me more points than any other applicant to be able to help. This leads me to talk about responsibility. Responsibility in two respects.

One of them is social. Adults between 30 and 55 have an obligation at this time to step up and take charge. We have the training, the experience, and the strength to take the lead now, taking over actively from the previous generation, which unfortunately is being used as cannon fodder in this pandemic.

The second is with the next generation. We need to worry less about their piano or German lessons and basketball practice and train them in values. In respect for the weak. In the sense of responsibility. In altruism. In empathy.

I could tell the unsanitary sensation when putting on PPE -personal protective equipment- without knowing what you are going to find when you get out of the elevator. That your heat shield gets fogged up and you can't see anything. Tenderness and respect when you feel your hands through the double glove. Denying my economics studies and wanting to have been a nurse. Remembering my dead mother and wishing I had been as kind as I am trying to be to these ladies. To call their relatives and witness their conversations.

You should never miss a crisis. And this one is giving us a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.

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