Doctors report the shock of seeing themselves as a Covid-19 patient in the middle of a pandemic


RIO – While waging a daily war against Covid-19 in the emergency of a hospital in Salvador, doctor Moema Quintana saw, in May, her mother being contaminated by the coronavirus and developing seizures, respiratory symptoms and a neurological condition. Her father, brothers and she also ended up becoming infected. The mother’s condition evolved, leading to a 28-day hospitalization in serious condition. An aunt did not resist.

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With the family scare apparently under control and the mother at home, in August the 38-year-old surgeon again experienced some signs of Covid-19. Only more intense. The same symptoms came from colleagues and patients: fatigue, shortness of breath and loss of taste, which has not yet recovered.

Moema, now back at work, may have been one of the rare people reinfected by the virus, and his case is being studied in São Paulo.

– The first time, I was calm, because the need to keep a cool head spoke louder. But, in the second, I thought: will I be hospitalized, like my mother and my colleagues? You get tense and anxious. The concern is to live only that day – reports the doctor, whose husband and daughter of only 1 year were also contaminated when Moema had her apparent second infection. – We end up being afraid when we see colleagues being hospitalized and are scared by the deaths in the class.

Surgeon physician Moema Quintana Photo: Personal archive

Like the surgeon, so many other health professionals around the world felt in their skin what it was like to become a patient in the blink of an eye. In Brazil, there have been 361,219 confirmed cases and 332 deaths by Covid-19 in health professionals, according to data from the Ministry of Health until October 10 – of the total, 38,310 contagions and 65 deaths were in doctors.

Risk awareness

This was the case with Cesar Medeiros, an interventional cardiologist who works in three hospitals in Rio de Janeiro. In April, he spent nine days in intensive care.

Cesar Medeiros, interventional cardiologist Photo: Personal archive
Cesar Medeiros, interventional cardiologist Photo: Personal archive

– It was thought that I would have to be sedated and intubated. My biggest fear was to lose the control I thought I had. I even called home, I talked to the family that I would be without news for a while. That moment was critical. But we managed to spend that night and, the next day, I started to improve – reported Cesar, 50 years old.

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Just five days after being discharged, the doctor was crossing the hospital doors again. But that time to heal after being healed:

– I started to perform functions that were not mine. I went back on duty, something I hadn’t done in many years. In a week, I went from patient to health worker.

For Bruno Bussade, doctor at Casa de Saúde São José in Rio, going back to work was a scare. He became infected early in the pandemic in Brazil, when knowledge about the virus and cases in the country was still scarcer. But at the end of their isolation, the news already showed that the explosion of cases was yet to come.

Bruno Bussade, doctor at Casa de Saúde São José in Rio Photo: Personal archive
Bruno Bussade, doctor at Casa de Saúde São José in Rio Photo: Personal archive

– During the illness, I thought that if something happened, I would be treated by colleagues. It would have a safe haven. But I was afraid – reports the 40-year-old cardiologist and intensivist. – When I came back from isolation, I was scared, because we jumped from two to almost 15 patients admitted by Covid.

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For José Alexandre Araújo, a 42-year-old urologist who was also infected at the beginning of the pandemic, the doctor’s awareness of the risks he took produced anxiety. When the symptoms of headache, high fever and the loss of five pounds left no doubt, he went to the hospital, paid the bills and gave his passwords to the woman, fearing he would be intubated.

In the end, he was able to recover at home. And, although the following months were hard to see “many people die”, José managed to transform his experience into a care tool:

– Today I tell patients that I had the disease. You understand who went through shortness of breath, tiredness and energy consumption. Only those who had it know.

José Alexandre Araújo, urologist Photo: Personal archive
José Alexandre Araújo, urologist Photo: Personal archive


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