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AP Photos: Spanish nurses witness grim solitude of COVID-19

BARCELONA, Spain — For nurse Marta Fernández, the fall resurgence of COVID-19 in Spain has been less traumatic in medical terms than during the initial spring outbreak.

But seeing her patients die in the Barcelona hospital where she works, without visits from family or friends, forced into grim solitude by the coronavirus, was no easier.

“The worst thing about this pandemic is seeing how patients deal alone with the entire disease process, even with their own death,” says Fernández. “Seeing them die alone is the hardest of all.”

Fernández, who has been working at the Hospital del Mar for more than 25 years, is one of the staff who have helped patients deal emotionally with the isolation of being hospitalized with COVID-19.

The virus shrinks their worlds to a hospital ward, and in the absence of loved ones they are deeply grateful for the nurses’ care.

Fernández holds up a tablet computer over the chest of 94-year-old María Teresa Argullos Bove so she can speak to her sister, children and grandchildren from her hospital bed.

One of Bove’s relatives asks her when she will be going home. “I still can’t leave,” Bove answers, adding “but soon, soon” as she blows kisses toward the screen.

Nursing assistant Ana Aguilar, 20, said she asked one of her patients, a woman in the last days of her life, if there was anything she could do for her. The patient replied that she wanted to eat “salmorejo,” a traditional kind of creamy tomato soup.

Aguilar made some at home and brought it to the hospital. The patient repeated “tasty, tasty, tasty,” after each spoonful, Aguilar says.

Elisa Martínez Sedano, 71, said that after three weeks in the hospital she was “eternally grateful” to the nurses.

“Because here we are alone,” Sedano said. “We do not have our family, just them. They are the ones who take care of us, the nurses.”



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