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From Spain: This is how I’m supporting my comrades in the medical profession today

I have had a lot of time to reflect on my role during this pandemic. Government mandated lockdowns have that effect. I realized the most difficult part of this entire experience, for me, is wishing I could contribute more to the fight in treating coronavirus here in Spain.
While completing my undergraduate degree, I was admitted to an “International Pre-Health Immersion” study abroad program in Costa Rica. I shadowed physicians, studied in the cadaver labs, and observed my first surgery. I was absolutely hooked.
I returned to Houston and accepted a position as a medical scribe in the emergency department (ED) in the Greater Heights area. In this position, I worked alongside physicians to update medical charts with speed and accuracy. I was lucky to work alongside individuals who were great teachers and have become my mentors in more aspects than just medicine.
During my four years in the ED, I worked through critical times in Houston including the Memorial Day flood in 2015, the Tax Day flood in 2016, and of course, Hurricane Harvey in 2017. This is not the kind of work you can do from home.
COVID-19, on the other hand, is different from a flood or a hurricane. Instead of evading the dangers of the natural disasters in the outside world, providers are in as much risk as the patients they are treating. I worry about medical personnel who put themselves in harm’s way every day during this pandemic. I worry my former coworkers and physicians across the country will find themselves in a difficult position when supplies become limited. This is the reality that Spain and Italy are facing today.
While teaching has been a rewarding experience, being away from the hospital during this crisis has been hard for me. If I could help in hospitals here, I would. I find a bit of comfort in reminding myself I am doing what I can to aid in preventative measures by staying at home.
I can only imagine what the scene must look like in Spanish hospitals right now. I imagine skipped meals, rushed bathrooms breaks, and extra hours. I imagine missed phone calls from their kids to say goodnight and sleeping in hospital call rooms to recharge before the next shift. I imagine being on foot for several hours before getting a moment alone. Due to required isolation, I imagine physicians and nurses as the only comfort for those who are sick or in their final moments. I’ve witnessed seasoned physicians struggle with this aspect of the job. It simply doesn’t get easier.
A usually mundane trip to the grocery store is considered a “potential risk” and includes hand sanitizer, plastic gloves at the door, and standing in the check out line one meter apart. That’s only 20 minutes of my entire day. Those working in hospitals are at risk in every moment. It is not an option to stay one meter away from their patients. They are giving medications, starting IVs, and comforting at the bedside despite the risks they face.
I’m thinking about the medical professionals across the globe, but especially those here in Spain, who are committed to treating patients infected by COVID-19 with or without proper protection. I’m thinking about their families who also make the sacrifice of missing a caretaker because they are taking care of others. I’m thinking about these professionals isolating themselves to lower the risk of exposure to others after a long shift treating patients. In an article with Business Insider, a nurse, Coral Merino, currently working in Madrid expresses “going to work is like going to war." In Madrid, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is still rising and medical supplies have been decreasing for days.

I’m thousands of miles away from my Houston roots, but we are all still in this together. We must do our part, no matter how small. Staying home to “flatten the curve” is vital and will help emergency rooms tremendously.
For the last five nights the city of Madrid has gathered on their terraces for the “Aplauso Sanitario,” cheering for those who work tirelessly during this time. I may not be working in the ED anymore, but this is how I’m supporting my comrades in the medical profession today.
About Isabella Zamora
Isabella Zamora is a born and raised Houstonian currently living in Madrid, Spain working as a Language and Culture Assistant with the Spanish Ministry of Education. Isabella is a graduate of S. P. Waltrip HS located in Northwest Houston and of the University of St. Thomas. While completing a BA in Psychology she committed four years working as a medical scribe in Houston area Emergency Departments. Isabella decided to move to Spain for the cultural immersion and as a gap period before returning to the US to pursue a career in medicine. She intends to use her experiences abroad to be a well-rounded and globally aware provider in a city as international as Houston. Until a week ago Isabella was working in the classroom with students in an English-language program but schools are not scheduled to open again until April, or until further notice. She is currently on lockdown in her apartment in the city center of Madrid for a least 15 days.
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