For many people, living in the big cities of Brazil represents a constant race against time. Many begin their day before the sun rises and only end when the sky is dark again. Because of their fast-paced routine and work, they end up neglecting their own health, sleeping and eating poorly. Reality was no different for 34-year-old self-employed Daniel Santos.
“My life started before 5:30 a.m. and during the day, even when I was in traffic, I was always running,” Santos said. "I felt like I was always late. My habits were not good, but I always tried to have breakfast and lunch with my family. Because of the routine, I developed a herniated disc in my spine and was already doing preoperative tests to try to remedy the problem. ”
He had plans to take time out to tend to his health, until one fateful day everything changed. In March, just before celebrating his 13th wedding anniversary with his wife, Santos began to experience pain in his eyes, fever, and shortness of breath. The symptoms left no doubt: Santos likely had contracted COVID-19. He was rushed to Hospital Adventista de Manaus, located in the Distrito Industrial district, in the southern part of the capital of Amazonas.
“I couldn't do anything anymore,” Santos recalled. “Everything I did tired me very quickly. I had a fever for five days that would not go away, and once I arrived at the hospital with shortness of breath, I preferred to stay. The problem was so serious that I actually feared for my life.” Santos was admitted to the hospital for ten days.
Since May 12, 2020, the Secretariat of Health of Amazonas has seen a total of 14,168 cases across the state, with 1,098 deaths and 6,782 recovered patients. The virus is caused by a new type of coronavirus that appeared in China in December 2019, and it quickly reached several countries, including Italy and Brazil, and in March 2020 it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). In Brazil, 202,918 cases have already been confirmed, 79,479 of which have recovered, and more than 16,000 deaths.
Among the patients most likely to be infected with the new coronavirus are the elderly, people with chronic diseases such as asthma, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Santos was one of the first COVID-19 patients in Manaus, and because he suffered from obesity and a cardiac arrhythmia, he fit into two of the groups. But the worst, according to the freelancer, was the psychological part, which left him very shaken during hospitalization.
“I think that what most affects the COVID-19 patient is not the disease itself, but all the psychological burden it brings,” Santos suggested. “Because it is a virus still largely unknown, we need to be isolated, without contact even with our family. The fact that I could not see my wife and daughter left me very upset. There were times when I lost the will to live, and I said ‘God, I can't take it anymore.’ While isolated at the hospital I prayed a lot, asking God to do his will.”
Though the first days of hospitalization were difficult for Santos, the situation was not easy for his wife, Karoline, either. While her husband was hospitalized, she called him daily, asking him to hold on and fight the virus, since the worsening curve would be five days, according to the doctor who attended him. Things were getting consistently worse, and Daniel’s shortness of breath was constant, aggravated by his other chronic conditions.
“When we talked, I asked him to hold on until April 5, so he could fight the virus,” Karoline recalled. “In the midst of this, I could not stand to read the news that appeared daily, of deaths by COVID-19, including people like Daniel. And at the end of each day, I called him and asked him to hold on until Sunday, the anniversary of our wedding, to celebrate together, even at a distance.”
On one of the first days of Daniel’s hospitalization, Karoline connected a speaker to her cell phone, playing a playlist of Santos' favorite songs while holding a poster with ten reasons he had to fight. As she was unable to enter the hospital, she stayed outside the building, outside of her husband's hospital room where he could hear the music and see the poster, in kind of a serenade.
“While I was doing this, I prayed to God that my husband would not die,” Karoline said. “And on that day, when I went to the hospital, one of the reasons I listed was that we needed to see our team become world champions. All the while, I said to myself, ‘My husband is not going to die!'”
Faith combined with science
After the fifth day of hospitalization, Daniel started to improve. In addition to his confidence in divine power--one of the eight natural remedies--what made a difference in his treatment was the care and attention he received from the technicians, nurses and doctors at Hospital Adventista de Manaus.
“There was a routine to check my blood pressure and administer the medication, but there was something else,” Daniel commented. “The hospital staff all talked to me and prayed with me. Other people came, sat, talked, and even sang in the hall. I can say that all the nurses on both shifts were very attentive and human. For me, that made all the difference. Besides, of course, the action of God and the support of my family.”
The hospital follows a vegetarian diet without refined foods, and this also made a difference in treatment, according to nutritionist Kelly Barboza, who accompanied Daniel during his hospitalization period. Barboza assisted Daniel with nutritional counseling over the phone, a means used to check his food preferences and dietary needs.
“Generally, obese patients are malnourished,” Barboza pointed out. “So we chose foods like fruits, salads, simple sugars, plenty of water, and less refined food. Most of the time, the patient understands the importance of food for recovery, and that's what happened to Daniel. As he was not in the habit of eating food for dinner, we adapted the meal for a snack, which worked well for him.”
Daniel's improvement was also felt by his wife, even though she was away from the hospital.
“After the fifth day, the doctor and I realized that he was a new Daniel,” Karoline said. “Every day he called me to talk about the smallest things that had happened, like someone who sat with him to talk or a nurse who reached out to touch his hand. He started to improve, and I felt that God was rewarding my faith and his.”
On April 6, just before Easter, Daniel was released from hospital.
“It was an immense joy for me,” Karoline said with emotion. “He came home and we were able to celebrate Easter understanding even better the true meaning of it, which is rebirth and resurrection. I am absolutely sure that Daniel was reborn.”
Daniel was one of the first among the 302 patients cured of COVID-19 at Hospital Adventista de Manaus since May 15. Now, he plans to stay home with his family and inspire others to resist the virus, which has already killed 302,493 people since May 15, according to data from Johns Hopkins University in the United States. Daniel's next trip to the hospital will be to continue the preoperative exams for herniated disc surgery and to treat cardiac arrhythmia.
“When I was discharged, I talked to my doctor and made sure to point out that I was available to talk to other patients hospitalized for COVID-19,” Daniel said. “I'm sure that I only managed to overcome it because I trusted God, and thanks to the work performed by the professionals at the Adventist Hospital. This virus will be overcome, and I am sure that soon everything will be better.”