(The following article is by Mexico City-based freelance journalist Mariana Llamas-Cendon who has been providing Latina Lista, along with other news clients, reports and articles of the current situation in Mexico.
In this article, the subject of the story, Miguel T. asked our reporter not to identify him. As he explained, “I don’t want to be the face of death.”)
By Mariana Llamas-Cendon
MEXICO CITY — The swine flu pandemic has already taken more than 20 lives just in Mexico City, and more than 200 cases of infection have been confirmed by the Mexican Department of Health, but thankfully there are residents, like Miguel T., who were lucky enough to tell their story with the virus H1N1.
Miguelâ€™s lifestyle was quite common: he went to work; used public transportation and cabs regularly, ate out everyday, gathered with friends, and spent time with his girlfriendâ€¦ until one day, around April 22nd, he started not to feel so well.
â€œI came home late. I noticed I had all the symptoms; even so I went to bed. Then, I got a message on my cell phone from (Mexicoâ€™s) Health Department saying that if the symptoms were present one should go to any public health center. So I decided to look for help,â€ said Miguel.
Miguel noticed that his body aches were stronger than he ever experienced before with any regular flu.
â€œThe pain was quite acute, especially in the joints and muscles. My knees and legs felt as if I had tripped or fell down the stairs,â€ said Miguel T.
On April 25th, Miguelâ€™s journey in search for medical attention was a tough one. After visiting two hospitals (Hospital de Traumatologia of Lomas Verdes and Hospital San Jose) â€” both located in the State of Mexico â€” he was finally redirected to a third one, where he finally received the assistance he needed.
â€œFirst, I went to a public hospital specialized in traumatology but I was denied medical attention,â€ said Miguel, who was well aware that by official declaration from the Department of Health, any public hospital must give prompt medical attention to anyone suspected of being infected with the human influenza.
At the second one he visited, doctors were not prepared to provide him with the attention he needed, with the exception of lowering his high fever.
â€œThey did not know what to do with me due to the lack of resources (regarding the swine flu.) They shut down the ER room just for me. For a bit, I felt important,â€ Miguel said.
Finally, after talking to some people he knew who helped him to get medical attention in a better prepared hospital; Miguel was redirected to the RDNI (Respiratory Diseases National Institute in Mexico City). He was seen by a doctor right outside the hospital, on the street.
â€œI was not allowed inside so I could not infect anybody else or get infected since my immune system was very weak and the people hospitalized were more ill than I,â€ he said.
By the time Miguel T. was seen by a doctor, he already experienced an intense pain in the chest. He had blood tests and X-rays done, and afterwards, doctors diagnosed swine flu.
â€œThe doctor pointed out that the difference between my case and the deceased ones is that I searched for help in the first 48 hours; the others took up to five daysâ€, he said.
The news shocked Miguel.
â€œI was so scared. What I knew that no other doctor had told me is that I came at the right time and nothing was going to happen to me. Once I got that in my head, everything turned out well,â€ he said.
Miguel believes that his old unhealthy habits contributed greatly to his predisposition of getting infected with the H1N1 virus.
â€œBefore, I did not eat well, smoked, did not sleep enough or took vitamins,â€ he said.
Besides being prescribed Tamiflu, Miguel was also asked to remain home and avoid contact with others until the symptoms disappeared completely. Though he didnâ€™t realize it, from the first time Miguel felt the symptoms, he was spreading the virus.
â€œThe Tamiflu only helps you to survive the week; it does not diminish the symptoms. I started feeling better by the third dose. From now on my favorite drink will be Tamiflu on the rocks,â€ he said.
Although Miguel did not experience side effects from the medication, he did suffer certain discrimination from people around him.
â€œNot only my coworkers, but even from friends of mine that had seen me that day. They believe since they had seen me for sure they are now infected,â€ he said.
So far, nobody he was in touch with presented any symptoms. Not even Miguelâ€™s girlfriend. But his isolated stage is about to come to an end.
â€œOnce you stop feeling the last symptom, it means your body has expelled the virus and you stop being contagious for everyone else. I am now immune,â€ he said.
He also added: â€œNow I want to tell as many people as I can that the disease is serious but if they get prompt attention, they will not become a statistic,â€ he said.