A young doctor walks four kilometers every day to get to his shift at the hospital

Doctors and health-care personnel make up 25% of all reported Coronavirus deaths. Meanwhile, high in the Venezuelan Andes, Dr. Luis Muchacho has to walk four kilometers every day, round trip, after recovering himself from COVID-19, to make it to his shift.

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By Maria Danieri.

Doctor Luis David Muchacho, 27, has to walk from his doorstep to the Hospital Universitario Dr. Pedro Emilio Carrillo in Valera, Trujillo state, where he works as a resident. There are no other
transportation ways available to him in a country writhe under a severe gasoline shortage.

Luis is just recovering after a 40-day bout with COVID-19. Lack of protective gear means doctors and health care personnel make up 25% of all the 444 Coronavirus deaths recorded so far in Venezuela.

The situation of Doctor Muchacho is concerning. Once he arrives on the job, he can expect to work up to 36 hours straight. And Coronavirus is peaking in the crisis-stricken nation: more than half of all the current cases were reported over the last four weeks alone.

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The routine of Dr. Muchacho has been going on for six months. Venezuelan refineries stopped producing gasoline in February. The resident doctor has noticed that a lot of people are also walking, as public transportation disappeared. When the Maduro regime decreed radical quarantine, the streets are looking deserted.

And what little public transportation is available, Muchacho eschews, on the impossibility, he claims, of keeping minimum social distancing once inside the bus. He prefers the walk.

“We have seen the large number of people who use the bus service, and I am a person exposed to the virus so, it would be inhumane to include myself inside the bus because it would expose others,” says the 27-year-old doctor. He also works in the area of care for COVID-19 patients at the hospital.

Compared to other colleagues, he, with three years of experience, feels lucky to live near the hospital.
Some colleagues, residents, and interns, live in other counties and have to walk even longer distances and wait up to three hours to make it to their shifts.

“I am one of the first to arrive at six in the morning. That means leaving my house at 5:20 a.m.,” explains the doctor, who is currently a graduate student in emergency and disaster medicine. The young man says he does not see himself migrating out of Venezuela or stopping his practice.

“Given the social situation we live in the country, being a doctor is quite difficult. It demands a lot because we think about the patients, but we are so limited by several factors, such as medicines, laboratories. We have to reinvent ourselves or create different protocols,” says the doctor, who assures that during these six months of the pandemic, the demand in the emergency has increased.

In the area, which has about 12 doctors, 25 to 30 hospitalized patients are tended to, of which 30% are in poor condition and require intensive care admissions.

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Also, citizens who had regular check-ups with specialists are coming more frequently for emergencies. Another factor is supplies, which are not always available.

“We should have personal protection equipment, that should come in kits, which should be individualized and changed daily,” details Muchacho, who mentions that organizations such as the Rotary Club, along with a group of colleagues, provided the staff with equipment.

Despite these generous endowments and institutional inputs, some of the staff suffered the COVID-19. Luis David is one of them. He spent 40 days in isolation in his home and 25 days with mild symptoms.

In his confinement, he remembered the phrase of T.K.V. Desikachar, a teacher from India, who said that the quality of breathing expresses deepest feelings. In his case, with every breath of oxygen, he longed to return to his work.

“In those moments, when we are out of breath, we must inhale and breathe deeply with the emotion in our heart, to say yes, we can get out of this. It was extremely difficult for me, but here I am, I recovered, thanks to my colleagues,” confesses the doctor.

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