By Lorena Bornacelly.
Fear was inevitable for Dahiana Araujo, a Venezuelan woman who lives in New York, when they called her from the Elmhurst Hospital on March 31 and told her that she was positive for Coronavirus.
Two weeks of a hacking cough, headache like she was on fire, and fever, made her suspicious about the possibility of being positive for COVID-19. The idea was no crazy since the number of cases was already alarming in New York.
To rule out the suspicion, she went to the Elmhurst Hospital on March 27. There was so crowding that she waited for nine hours, and never got attention. The next day, she returned to the hospital, feeling more difficulty breathing, so they did her the PCR test. Three days later, she resulted in positive.
She felt fear for three weeks. Thinking she was living in another country, with no family around made her feel terror. The thought of going to the hospital, and never going out, terrified her.
“Here – in New York – people enter a hospital with coronavirus, and if you don’t recover, you can’t see anyone else again. Neither your family can wait for you outside. If you die, they turning you in ashes, and that’s it. Many people died here, and the families could not come to do a funeral or anything. There are a lot of immigrants, like me, wich family is in other countries,” she told El Pitazo through Whatsapp.
Turning to ashes was her worst fear, so she resisted all the discomfort. There were moments when she felt like she passes out. She had to be strong because the instructions given in the hospital by phone were clear: “Only come to the hospital if you cannot breathe, or you start to turn in purple due to the lack of oxygen.”
With those words in mind and the previous experience in the hospital, she understood that although the United States health system works, it is different from the Venezuelan system. To Dahiana, the human quality, the care from doctors and nurses on their patients, and empathy is something that she thinks only in Venezuela can find.
“Have coronavirus in a foreign country, away from your family, is very hard. Fortunately, my symptoms were slight compared to many people in the hospital. The days when I couldn’t breathe were the worst. I cried, I prayed. The biggest fear was they might let me in the hospital, and that could be the last time. It is very scary to think that you won’t say goodbye to your family,” she confesses.
Coronavirus in the city
Dahiana doesn’t know how she got it. New York is the epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States. On May 25, 2020, the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University, reported in its interactive map that New York registered 358.700 confirmed cases, becoming in the city with more infected people in the world.
After three days of suffocating and despair, the sensation started to disappear. On April 15, she returned to the hospital for another PCR test. On April 17, she knew she was free of the virus.
With the results in hand, she returned to work. The joy for her recovery was insuperable, but his coworkers, even when they said nothing, they looked at her strangely and suspiciously. However, work was not the place where she felt more rejection, where she lives, they sealed doors with plastic and wood for fear.
“I live in a basement that they enable as an apartment, and up is three floors where the owners live. So, they sealed the doors that unite the house with the basement, I guess they were afraid because me, my boyfriend, and other two people with whom we share the place, were all positive for coronavirus.”
Nobody is safe
Now that this episode passed, Dahiana reflects on the illness that paralyzed the entire world. She is 33-years-old and has dedicated her life to working out. Before leaving Venezuela, she trained two hours every day, ran marathons, and has a physical condition that she considered good health.
“I’m young and healthy, and I never really get sick, and I felt, like never before in my life, that I couldn’t breathe, that I was missing air, I cannot imagine how the virus attacks, and destroy people with a weak immune system, with some respiratory pathology or to those who are smokers,” she says.
Dahiana left Venezuela in 2008 after she evaluated what kind of life she would have in a place where she ate less every day, where the dream to buy her house fading away, and her quality life disappearing. So, she decided to move out.
But although in the most magical place in the world, as she calls New York, she has economic stability, emotional health, and other things she couldn’t buy in her born city, in her heart, she hopes of returning to her country when everything has changed.