Comments, In Focus, Latin America

A brigade to bring people back to life

Cuba has sent some fifty emergency medicine specialists to join the battle for life in one of the Caracas (Venezuela) hospitals dedicated to caring for patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.


Photo: Pixabay

Dailyn Ruano Martínez


The group of doctors from the eighth brigade of the Ernesto Guevara contingent – established to strengthen Venezuela’s most pandemic-affected areas – is reinforcing the work of the Bolivarian government to prevent, treat and control the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

In the intensive care unit at the Doctor Leopoldo Manrique Hospital, to the south of the capital city, colleagues from the Cuban medical mission are responsible for the health of all COVID-19 patients.

Balancing experience and learning, they share standards and thoroughly review each case.

Since mid-July, they have taken on caregiving duties at a health centre, revamped by the national executive, in a context marked by the sustained increase of positive cases in the Capital District, which is considered the epicentre of the pandemic.

In an interview with the media, first degree specialist in Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, Alexander Roque Gali, stated that the daily battle with COVID-19 requires the constant exchange of knowledge and research to accomplish their objective of saving lives.

As the leader of a team of 56 professionals, the doctor from the Pinar del Río province explains that doctors and nursing, clinical laboratory, x-ray, imaging and anaesthesia staff make up three watch teams who ensure the constant care of seriously ill patients.

“In intensive care we face complications associated with respiratory failure requiring ventilation, cardiovascular problems, arrhythmias, and cases of thromboembolism, among others, which have been described in the literature on COVID-19,” states Roque Gali.

There is a case that stands out: one of the first patients saved by the team of Cuban experts, despite the severity of her condition.

“We managed to save her by applying the protocol and established standards for this disease. The 52-year-old woman arrived in an extremely critical state, and it was very emotional when she was discharged from the intensive care unit, with so many words of thanks for us,” he recalls.

“As intensive care doctors, we are engaged in a never-ending battle for life and the best possible recovery for critically ill patients,” affirms Doctor Roque Gali, a founding member of the Henry Reeve contingent, which specialises in providing medical attention in disaster situations and severe epidemics.

Having provided medical services in Guatemala in 2005 and again in Venezuela, Gali considers the current health challenge, in the midst of the global health crisis, as unique and unforgettable.

“We feel happy to be part of this brigade and to be at the forefront of this difficult professional chapter, like many of my colleagues in various places around the world,” he says.

This is also the case for intensive care nurse Frank Javier Almeda who, on his first trip outside of Cuba, alongside his group of colleagues has assumed the biggest challenge of his professional career: tackling the worst effects of the SARS-Cov-2 virus, in the so-called red zone. The 27-year-old recounts his work in the emergency department of the Periférico de Coche Hospital in Caracas, as a member of the eighth brigade of the Ernesto Guevara contingent.

In the intensive care unit, nursing staff provide all of the care prescribed by doctors for patients in extremely weakened vital states, therefore they must employ all of their skills.

“Our commitment is directly to those critically ill patients, to keep them stable for as long as possible to ensure their recovery, alongside the challenge of following biosafety measures to avoid infection,” explains Almeda.

Almeda was working and studying in the third year of his nursing degree when he was asked to be part of the international mission to Venezuela. He accepted the call of duty, although his decision involved being separated from his son Lucas, who was just a few months old.

“One day I will be able to tell my little boy about these challenging times I spent directly fighting COVID-19. This fills me with pride because it is a difficult experience, the hardest of my professional life,” he says. One of his aspirations is to join the Henry Reeve brigade. (PL)

(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu  – Email: Photos: Prensa Latina

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