Maritza, we love you
The first time I saw her was the day she was admitted. The doctor on duty referred her to my unit. She had attended alone, without any companion. According to the file, Maritza Hurtado was seventy years old and was a suspected case of Covid-19.
“My name is Nancy Pedrozo and I’m going to be your admission nurse,” I told her, grasping her frail fingers with my gloved hand.
“Hello, dear,” she replied, smiling, unfazed by my protective equipment that resembled an astronaut suit.
“We’re going to treat you like a queen, don’t you worry,” I said, as I put the IV in and drew blood for lab work. If she felt any pain, she did not express it.
Since there was no orderly available, I personally took her to X-rays in the wheelchair, with the nasal cannula attached to the portable oxygen tube.
When we returned to the ward, with the X-rays showing Maritza’s extensive lung involvement, Dr. Grieco made the same worried face as I had made when I looked at them. Then he consulted the nursing report sheet, auscultated her, and sighed.
“Take her to room 18. With three liters of oxygen to start with.”
That afternoon I stopped by to greet her. Despite her obvious shortness of breath, she smiled at me. She rummaged in the table´s drawer next to the bed and showed me a small faded photo. I could recognize her, younger, surrounded by two handsome young men.
“My boys,” she whispered. Afterward, she fell into a deep slumber.
Two days later, Maritza’s condition worsened and she was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. I went to visit her, even though it was not my unit. She was sedated and on Mechanical Ventilation.
Maritza Hurtado passed away a week later. During her entire hospitalization, no one came to see her or asked about her.
I silently recited a prayer for her soul and continued my never-ending work.
That afternoon, when I left the hospital after my shift ended, I stopped by the little church around the corner. I walked over to the billboard they had installed to remember the victims of the pandemic. I looked at the dozens of photos of smiling people and the multitude of messages of love and hope. I stayed for a few moments thinking about these people who were no longer with us and about their loved ones.
I took the small photo of Maritza with her sons and placed it in an empty spot. To one side, I put a card that my six-year-old daughter Emma had drawn that read, “We love you, Maritza,” along with a multi-colored rainbow and a heart. We had never had a chance to hand it over to her.
That night, I told Emma that our beloved Maritza was gone. I hugged her harder than ever and we cried with sadness and happiness at the same time.
Every Sunday, we greet Maritza when we go to church.
Marcelo Medone (Argentina, 1961) is a medical doctor, fiction writer, poet, essayist, and screenwriter. His works have received numerous awards and have been published in magazines and books, individually or in anthologies, in multiple languages in more than 40 countries all over the world. He has been awarded the First Prize in the 2021 international contest by the American Academy of the Spanish Language with his surreal short story La súbita impuntualidad del hombre del saco a rayas llamado Waldemar (The Sudden Unpunctuality of the Man in the Striped Jacket Named Waldemar).
He has been nominated for the 2021 Pushcart Prize for his flash fiction story Last Train to Nowhere Town.