[record scratch] yup, that´s me…now let me explain how I got anywhere near this scene.
In the interest of full disclosure, it admittedly wasn’t my idea to take my vital and vigorous self to visit a medical facility during an active global health crisis….this peculiar confluence of events all began in the constructive online trolling of Pamela, a veteran nurse and valued member of the staff at Hospital Joya (fka Hospital San Javier, like, literally until last week or something).
Pamela has been using her established social media presence to offer a (safe!) tour of the rapidly developing COVID unit expansion to plague rats, scofflaws, and ne´er-do-wells across the Banderas Bay who may not understand their role in creating a future they want to live in.
Here was any Internet rando´s golden ticket to unraveling The Grand Deception, to confront evil doctors who dared tell them to cover their beautiful faces before an adoring public.
Surprisingly enough, no one had yet seized the opportunity.
Still, with our Puerto Vallarta so dependent on the health and wellness of its visitors as well as our locals, I figured that a concrete reminder of what ¨a little less careful¨ could end up looking like might inspire some of the community-minded behaviors that will ensure a brighter future for this sunny city by the sea…and so, I looked in the mirror and asked: do I love PV or not?
Is this whole t-shirt a lie?
Drama class aside, I decided that as we enjoy our days in this brave new world, it is essential to recognize the efforts of those who have committed themselves to support the local lifestyle, and so one recent weekday I somehow got myself out of bed before 10 and headed over to the Marina district to meet up with Pamela outside the emergency room at Hospital Joya.
¨Hospital Joya is one of México´s private care facilities, so even though our nurses need as many snacks, drinks, and personal items as they can get, we actually have plenty of medical supplies…it´s the public hospitals that are so much worse off right now.¨ Pamela sighed.
¨Even before COVID, it was not uncommon for doctors not to be able to perform procedures immediately because, for example, they didn’t have the right type of syringe in stock. Obviously now, it’s a lot harder on everyone.¨
Ramiro, the nursing supervisor at Hospital Joya, entered the chat, conveniently subtitled for the benefit of our English-language audience: ¨It’s very hard. More people come every day, and so we work 9 or 10 hours each shift…no breaks, not even for the bathroom. We cannot leave the COVID treatment area for any reason, or we will have to strip down our suits and shower again.¨
I couldn´t resist the obvious question: ¨So, what is it like to go through all that and still have people walking around talking about hoaxes and overreactions?¨
His eyes clamped shut for an instant, his half-masked face a full image of exasperation.
¨Incredible.¨ he finally answered, the preceding expletive silent yet palpable.
I was almost sorry I asked.
Moving inside the facility, Pamela led us first to the room where the everyday-use donations are stored. ¨We always could use more PPE, but people love to give physical goods, big box stuff from Costco, water bottles, juice boxes. The nurses always wanted to run out and get things from the store when this started, but obviously, we couldn’t have that…so now we keep it on hand for them, and the community is great about contributing.¨
I had my eye on one of the cold cans just delivered as a surprise by the good people at Monzón Brewing, but you already knew that.
The storage room was more than an ad-hoc pantry…medical gear such as gowns, gloves, and face shields accumulated in a far corner…an impressive feat in a time where such accouterment is in short supply. The mark of community endeavor was clearly visible in this space.
¨A lot of what we have right now is coming from the public.¨, she explained, holding up a gown. ¨These we have made here in town by seamstresses forced out of work, the materials are financed through donations, and we also compensate them for their time.¨
¨Sort of a jobs program?¨
¨You could say that.¨ she smiled…I think she was wearing a mask.
We all were. You should too.
Of course, no one can force you to do anything, you´re a free adult sovereign human guy, so if you´re not into the whole COVID protocol thing during your time here on the Pacific Coast, you may at least be relieved to know that the hospital is expanding its accommodations just for you.
Yes, here in these halls of healing, you will be in for an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. Your view of the floor during a face-down intubation will be unparalleled, and the room service is universally rated as ¨serviceable¨…more poignant repose, you will not find.
Once I´d taken in the splendor of the newly built wing of the hospital, there was a visit to Pamela´s office.
It was unmistakably the workspace of an indispensable individual, almost every surface employed in the holding of gear and goods, both for distribution in Hospital Joya and to the stunningly underfunded public sector…not all of the bounty was strictly utilitarian, there were ample creature comforts within the treasure trove: a massive basket of cinnamon rolls occupied the seat next to me, destined for the tired hands pushing this place forward.
I wish them all the everyday delights the Universe can deliver them.
¨The profession is paid very little in the country…many of the nurses have at least 2 jobs, they´ll do a full shift here and then go over to one of the public hospitals. Imagine taking going through an entire shift at a time like this, taking all that equipment off, showering, and getting dressed to go to a shift across town and do it all again? I have no idea when the COVID team sleeps.¨
I have trouble wrapping words around the idea myself.
Along with some lovely parting gifts from Pam, like a crocheted mask holder strap prepared by a community volunteer–life-changer–I left Hospital Joya that afternoon with an even more profound respect for the medical professionals on the front lines of our ongoing struggle with this global health crisis. (Snagged the cold Monzón too, obvio…IPA, if you´re curious.)
To truly understand that these human beings were toiling around the clock just to keep our local healthcare system from crumbling into chaos was a stark reminder that each citizen has the responsibility to do everything they can to make their lives a little easier…and so for Channel 9 CCNN and welovepv.com, this has been Lifestyle Scout AJ Freeman reminding you once more to stay safe, mask up, and wash your hands.
AJ Freeman is an adventurous spirit, serial friend maker, and general enthusiast. He lives his everyday life hoping to demonstrate the nearly infinite potential for discovery and wonder on this small wet rock orbiting a dim yellow star in the backwoods of the Milky Way.