Coronavirus
Society 02/05/2021

The life-changing vaccine

We talked to people who have been vaccinated against covid to find out how vaccination has impacted their daily lives

5 min
Teresa, Pilar and Alfonso breathe easier now that they are vaccinated
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BarcelonaVaccination is advancing and, with it, the recovery, timidly, of some routines that had been put aside with the coronavirus. Health workers, elderly people, cancer patients and immunocompromised patients are some of the groups that have already been vaccinated. We talked to them to find out how it has changed their daily lives.

Pilar Recha, 85 years old: "The vaccine has given more peace of mind to my son than to me"

Pilar Recha

March 4th and 25th. Pilar Recha, 85, from Barcelona, won the lottery these days in March when she was scheduled for the first and second doses of the anticovid vaccine: "I had the obligation to get it", she answers when asked if at any time she was afraid or even doubted whether she had to go through the injection in her arm. She does not seem like a woman prone to fear and expresses herself in a firm and - perhaps misplaced - youthful tone. She remembers how on the eve of the spring lockdown of 2020 her son showed up at her flat with a couple of bags ready to settle in so as not to leave her alone in those moments of general uncertainty. The coexistence, after so many years of independent lives, was quite good. She says that during all those days she was not "overwhelmed" despite the amount of information on death and pain, and that she "behaved well" and scrupulously complied with all the protocols. She explains that one of the things she is most excited about now is being able to hug her 30-year-old granddaughter again, whom she had seen very sporadically and always with a face mask on. For example: "I know I can still catch the coronavirus", she says, indicating that she is not letting her guard down.

The vaccine has given her peace of mind but she admits that her son "is even calmer" than her knowing that his mother is immunised. "Everyone can do what they want, but I can't understand how there are people who don't want to get vaccinated", she exclaims. Even so, she says that for the moment she has relaxed very little of the safety and hygiene measures she took before being vaccinated, but she has been encouraged to meet up for a coffee with some of her friends with whom she lost contact during lockdown. She dreams of being able to go to a museum soon and, while the epidemiological situation improves, she chooses to go for a short walk around the house, with the help of a cane, heeding medical advice to maintain a certain exercise routine so as not to lose mobility.

Now that she is back to living alone, Pilar is "grateful" to have recovered the chats with Jordi, the volunteer from the Amics de la Gent Gran association who keeps her company, and with whom she had to make do with talking virtually during her lockdown. "I tell him a lot of little stories", she laughs.

Alfonso Dacasa, 37 years old: "I feel safer in hospital than in the supermarket"

Alfonso Dacasa, 37, at home with his dog

The face mask and the hydroalcoholic gel have been part of Alfonso Dacasa's life for eight years, ever since he received a bone marrow transplant. At the age of 21 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a disease from which he recovered, but at 29, a relapse and the subsequent transplant left him with many sequelae. "I am a chronic patient, immunosuppressed and prone to serious infections. I have many pathologies and almost all of them are a feast for the coronavirus", he explains with good humour. Like everyone else, the pandemic forced him to change his routines, but in his case, he had to take extra precautions to avoid becoming infected. When news of the coronavirus began to arrive, he decided to stop attending medical classes, the course he is studying, and when, finally, the state of alarm was declared, he confined himself to his home for 50 days, away from his partner and his mother, his usual caregivers, to avoid becoming infected. "I stopped seeing friends and family and putting projects on hold is what has affected me the most. My partner, in addition, as she works with children, has also stopped working, for prevention, and this has also had an impact on the family economy", he acknowledges.

However, the vaccination is an injection of hope. He is already immunised with the two doses from Pfizer and his partner and his mother, with the first one from AstraZeneca. "We continue to be cautious but we are more relaxed, I feel more protected". Not only because of the vaccine but also because more and more is known about the virus.

He is used to hospital visits, whether for an infection or a check-up, but now he goes with more confidence. "I feel safer in hospital than in the supermarket, where people crowd around and don't keep their distance. They see me in a wheelchair, but what they don't know is that I'm immunosuppressed", he says. The vaccine has also allowed him to regain a bit of a social life: "I've started going out more. We always meet outdoors and continue to keep our distance but with the added security of being vaccinated".

"I've changed the frequency with which I do things, now I meet more people and I've widened my circle a bit", says Alfonso, who recognises that so many months of pandemic have taken their toll on his mood. As the vaccination progresses, his partner will also be able to return to work: "This will also change our lives". However, he has not yet resumed his classes at the Faculty of Medicine and prefers to spend this year recovering.

Teresa Planella, 62 years old: "Suddenly, with the vaccine, even my mood changed"

Teresa Planella, anesthesiologist, in one of the operating rooms of the hospital in Vic where she works

Everyone knows that they are the ones who are in charge of putting patients to sleep when they have to be operated on. But not many know another aspect of the work of anaesthesiologists which has played a key role throughout the pandemic: they are responsible for intubating patients who cannot breathe and caring for the most seriously ill in the resuscitation area. "The team of anesthesiologists intubated more than 90% of patients in the first wave", recalls Teresa Planella, an anesthesiologist at the Consorci Hospitalari de Vic, who admits that she suffered a lot, especially during the first months. "Intubation is one of the moments when you have more risk of infection: you have to be very close to the patient, breathing the air he breathes. At the beginning we didn't have much information about the virus, and until after Sant Jordi we didn't have our first PCR tests done and we didn't know if we were infected. Even now, when I think about it, I feel that anxiety again".

She is 62 years old, and the worst thing was to intubate friends or acquaintances of her age. "It is a regional hospital and it is easy to know them directly or indirectly. And many were patients without serious pathologies, who were just like you. And you had to intubate them and some, unfortunately, ended up dying. And this caused even more stress". In fact, in the first wave, most of the anaesthesiologists were from her own group. "Now we have recently been tested again and none of the team has been infected, despite the fact that we do one of the most risky manoeuvres. And this means that we have been able to protect ourselves very well", she says proudly.

After months of waiting for the long-awaited vaccines, she received her first injection in January. "When it was posted on the intranet that we could sign up, if I wasn't the first, I wasn't far behind. There were people who had some doubts, but I didn't, I had no doubts at all!" And thanks to the two injections, she now breathes much easier: "They told me: you're happier. It's just that, all of a sudden, with the vaccine, it even changed my mood: it was like a liberation". Especially because she no longer has to worry about passing on covid to her loved ones: "I was afraid of infecting my husband and daughters. And I especially noticed it with my parents. They are 89 and 87 years old, and I suffered a lot when I went to look after them. But now I can go and see them without fear".

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