In just 5 days, the new coronavirus took four of the most important people in her life from Paulina Carvajal. She lost her father, mother, husband and one of her brothers before she had time to understand what was going on. The Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil was being hit by the virus. And your home too.
Read also: Ecuador exceeds the mark of 30 thousand registered cases of coronavirus
At 39, the same age as her husband when she died, Carvajal is perhaps the most dramatic case of the emotional and humanitarian earthquake that experienced the city dubbed the "Pearl of the Pacific" between the second half of May and the first of April, with thousands of contagions and deceased, many still unaccounted for.
"Everyone here at home had the coronavirus, but the most affected were my husband, who died on March 25 with my father, and my mother, who died on the 30 with my brother", recalls the journalist, already more resigned , during an interview with EFE, almost two months after experiencing the tragedy.
Five days of pain
Paulina's ordeal, born and raised in Guayaquil, began in the early hours of March 23, when her husband, Michael González, who was diabetic, began to have difficulty breathing.
The couple waited until the next morning to go to one of the health facilities in the city, by now already saturated, while the pandemic registered one of the highest rates of contagion per capita in the world in the region.
After going through two emergency rooms, her husband finally received an IV drip to control his blood sugar level, and finally they returned home. Everything was apparently fine, but hours later González started to show symptoms again.
"We went back to the place where it was treated before, but we were told that they could not do anything else and that we should look for a place to intern it, but the system is already collapsing. Nobody wanted to receive it," recalls Carvajal.
After several hours, they found a center where he received some oxygen and was sent home again. At dawn, the problem was repeated, but he only got a place in a hospital on March 24.
"When they saw my husband, he was already very ill, he had almost no vital signs, he was desperate. He only asked for oxygen to breathe, but there was nowhere," she laments.
Meanwhile, Paulina received a call from her brother to let her know that her father, Manuel Carvajal, 77, had also been admitted with respiratory problems. At the hospital, the diagnosis was that 90% of his lungs were taken by the virus. Manuel and Michael died the next day.
"It was horrible, I never imagined I would go through something like this," she says.
As if his mourning was not enough, a few days later his brother Marco, 51, and his mother Eduviges, 71, started showing symptoms of covid-19 and died shortly afterwards.
Living for daughters
Since Ecuador declared a state of health emergency on March 16, the province of Guayas, whose capital is Guayaquil, has led the official ranking of confirmed cases and deaths from coronavirus, and since then hundreds of probable deaths from the disease have been added.
Only in relation to PCR tests (rapid tests are not counted in the provincial statistics), Guayaquil concentrates 35% of the 35,300 cases of contagion across the country.
Paulina believes that she and her sister, both also infected by the virus, are alive "by miracle", and that they saved themselves by following the advice of their other three sisters: not to go near any clinic and stay at home, a decision that caused heavy spending on drugs and oxygen.
The journalist does not know how they got infected, but she suspects that this may have happened at the family store: "we were always very close and we saw each other all the time, I think it could be there".
Recalling what happened, she says that the pain caused by grief, added to the disease itself, made her weaken. Because the virus did not allow her to get through the problem initially: every time she cried, her body responded worse.
"If I didn't have my daughters, I wouldn't have fought for my life with so much strength and honestly, maybe I wouldn't have resisted. It was hard what was going on, but I needed to calm down and be with them, raising them", he analyzes.
Pressure on networks
Her case quickly reached social networks and the media and this meant that, in those days of scarcity, the Ministry of Health carried out tests that confirmed that they were infected.
"I feel that people were moved by everything we went through, and when they heard that my sister and I were infected, they started asking us for other things," explains Paulina, who even publicly asked them to stop sending her food.
"I feel very grateful for the affection of many people I don't know, but who follow me on the networks and leave me beautiful messages of support", she reveals, who also received messages from other countries in Latin America.
The social pressure over the Internet also served to save another family in the capital, Quito, who was able to take tests and receive food thanks to the disclosure of his case: 20 people, of all ages, were infected, but the pandemic did not reach them so hard when it hit the Carvajal, and they survived.
Union in mourning
When she remembers those days, Paulina believes that, in addition to the hospital and funeral collapse that was seen all over the world, the main problem in Guayaquil was that many residents were unaware of the size of the pandemic.
"Many people were unaware and continue to go out and meet. Certainly because, as nothing had happened to them, they thought it was all a lie," he laments.
And despite the tragic experience, both she and her family preferred to retire, maintain discretion and go through their mourning in peace and together. "I never thought that, as a human being, I would endure so much pain," he says.