Love in Covid times: portraits of medical staff

Nov 2, 2020

While most Colombians spent more time than usual with their relatives during a quarantine that lasted 160 days, between March 24 and August 31, medical staff that attend Covid-19 emergency experienced the opposite. Some doctors decided to move away from their parents, siblings and children so as not to infect them during the first weeks. More than 60 health workers have died after they got ill with coronavirus, according to the National Institute of Health.

But as the economy in Colombia began to reopen at the end of April and new methods were known to treat critically ill covid patients, the medical staff began to recover a bit of their daily family life.

In order to narrate this dichotomy between duty and family, global pandemic and intimate life, I developed in Cali, Colombia, this portrait series of medical staff along with their loved ones, but with the health workers wearing biosecurity suits inside their own houses.

This work was originally published in El País-Cali.

In his personal study, the intensivist and internist Gustavo Adolfo Ospina poses for a portrait with his wife Lorena Delgado, who is a dentist, and their son Jacobo. “Although the personal and family impact is quite strong and there are occasional cases of stress in some colleagues, we cannot make the mistake of qualifying ourselves as victims, because that would reduce our work as people who save lives”, says Ospina.
Nidia Elvira Valencia, head of nursing, hugs her son Juan José Orejuela in his room. “Only from a month ago, I can spend more time with my son, watching YouTube programs or playing video games on his cell phone”, says the nurse
In the living room of his house, Jorge Revelo, emergency medicine specialist, poses with his wife Johana Albán Castro, son Jerónimo and stepdaughter Valentina Raigoza Albán. “Despite being diabetic and hypertensive, my wife did not stay with our children when we took them to her mother’s house. We didn’t know what was worse: whether or not to call our children, because every time we finished, our eyes were filled with tears”, Revelo remembers.
The anesthesiologist Mónica Patricia Vargas, together with her husband Rodrigo Figueroa Perdomo and their son Sebastián. “Something that I missed a lot in the first months of the pandemic, and that I’m just recovering, was helping my son with his homework, playing together with his Legos or watching movies on Netflix”, Vargas says.
Diego Fernando Hoyos, respiratory physiotherapist, hugs his girlfriend Lorena Marcela Mora, head of nursing, on the edge of the window of their apartment. “When the pandemic started, almost the only way in which we both coincided was when our shifts in the ICU crossed. After the quarantine ended, we were lucky to have more free time in common”, Lorena says.
On the terrace of his house, Alex Fabián Sánchez carries his girlfriend Maira Alejandra Lucumí, who works as a nurse. “When I got Covid in mid-June, I had to leave my elderly mother’s house to spend the 15 days of quarantine with Alex. Although we talked and ate in separate rooms, we became more unified as a couple”, Lucumí recalls.
Yulieth Alexandra Castañeda, respiratory, puts her hand on her father’s head, Arnulfo Castañeda, who has Alzheimer’s. The portrait hanging on the wall is of Arnulfo when he was 24 years. “Every time I was going to take my turn, I would say goodbye to my dad from the other side of the window, even though I know he no longer has any idea that I am his daughter”, she says.
Daniela González Hernández, along with her grandparents José Arjail González and Betzabé Hernández. “Due to my grandmother having hypertension, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia and my grandfather suffered two strokes, we had to send them to my uncle’s house. They did not stay there a week. They insisted on seeing me again, even if they had to ‘run away’. So, when they returned, I took all the measurements. The funny thing is that they, especially my grandmother, also want to take care of me”, González remarks.

General practitioner Marisol Infante along with her father José Gilberto, her sister Ángela and nephew Matías Muñoz. “I feel that Colombia is not a country that is grateful to its doctors because some people consider that we are guilty of transmitting the virus”, Infante asserts.
Emergency medicine specialist Mauricio Umaña and his wife Carolina Bonilla Gómez, who works as a nurse, pose with their children Elena and Martín on the terrace of their house. “We did not see the children for 70 days, during which time we sent them to live with their grandparents. We celebrated Elena’s 7th birthday with two video calls that lasted 10 minutes each. When we realized that the quarantine was going to be for a long time, we brought them back home with us”, Umaña says.

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