It is around 1 p.m. in Manaus, this Thursday, January 14, and on Instagram a young woman in a sky-blue mask bursts into tears. ” People, I implore your mercy. It’s appalling! There is no more oxygen in the entire care unit! A lot of people are dying in this! If you have oxygen, please bring it! “, pleads this psychologist, Thalita Rocha, in a series of videos, shot on the outskirts of a hospital in the city and posted on social networks.
The image of this panicked woman, whose mother-in-law was then hospitalized in intensive care and in serious respiratory difficulty – she ended up dying on January 15 -, toured Brazil and moved the whole country. In a few hours, it became the real cry of distress for the largest city in the Amazon, already deeply mourned by the Covid-19 in 2020, and today facing a brutal second wave, coupled with a serious shortage of oxygen which endangers the lives of thousands of patients.
All the indicators are now back to red. For the day of January 14 alone, 2,516 new cases were counted in the city, 800 more than for the worst previous day recorded, in May. More than 93% of intensive care beds are now occupied. The number of deaths fluctuates from 50 to 60 daily victims: levels comparable to those of eight months ago.
The stories of what happened there are chilling. As the number of admissions exploded on Thursday, much of the city’s public hospitals suddenly ran out of oxygen. ” It has become chaos, the real, the absurd, the surreal ”, says Gabriela Oliveira, doctor in one of the large healthcare establishments in Manaus (whose name she prefers not to mention).
“We felt helpless”
As new patients flock to emergency rooms, corridors and rooms in care units fill with patients, often on the verge of asphyxiation, sharing half- or three-quarters empty oxygen tanks. ” We were forced to ventilate them manually, in the old fashioned way, or to urgently use very small emergency bottles, normally used for transport by ambulance ”, relates Gabriela.
Quickly, the first patients succumb. Some doctors crack up, burst into tears. ” We all felt helpless. We looked around and saw people dying. They needed the only thing we didn’t have: oxygen ”, continues the young woman. In desperation, morphine is injected into some patients “To calm them down and make them feel less anxious by suffocation”, explains Gabriela, who blows: “We had a lot of deaths …”
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