The Ebola Diary: Tuesday, Oct 7 2014, Madrid

It’s been wall-to-wall ebola since the clock radio woke us up. La Ser radio station boasts about its outside broadcast unit being at the door of the hospital where the unfortunate ebola victim is being treated. I switch off and put on some soothing music to chew my muesli to: Ramona Lisa’s Arcadia album.

In the schoolyard, waiting for the bell to ring, us parents swap fears as our kids scamper about us. Carlos III Hospital and its isolation ward, where isolation is clearly not 100% guaranteed, are only a short, brisk walk across the M30. Thanks be to God the kids can’t grasp what could possibly be happening behind the biobarriers and biohazard suits we keep seeing on the news and on the front pages of the dailies. School is in and one of the fathers and I walk a few blocks together, as we do every morning. He blames the government. They should never have brought the brother or the doctor home. If the pair weren’t St. John of God, the governing party (the right-wing PP) would have left them there to rot. For the price of the flights to bring them back from Africa, they could have put up a field hospital to treat them. The government is incompetent, he says, especially Ana Mato, the minister for health. They’re all incompetent. All the top doctors are only in their jobs because they’re PP. His rant against the government heads down the same road it always does — a lamentation of Spain’s woes.

“Why is Spain always back of the class in everything?” he asks. “Why do we always put cretins in charge? What’s wrong with us?”

We go our separate ways with him spitting: “Of course no one will resign. No one ever pays the price in Spain. They’ll blame the poor nurse’s aid and carry on as ever.”

I think to myself how right he is. If Health Minister, Ana Mato, hasn’t retired heretofore, she never will. Just Google her name along with “corrupt payments” or “Jaguar” (as in the make of car) and you’ll get the gist of what I mean.

A slight frisson going into work, knowing there are going to be camera crews outside the gates of the campus. You feel like saying “There’s nothing to see here, move on” and telling them that all the action is inside the hospital, where doctors and nurses are fighting to save someone’s life, and not on the gates. What are they expecting to film? The odd ambulance going in and out? Worried looking pedestrians such as myself casting sideways glances in their direction? Guys in biohazard suits fumigating the roses, just in case? Dustin Hoffman?! What they sure ain’t going to see is the nurse’s aid being moved from A to B in one of those HEPA-filtered, space-pod stretchers in which she was filmed arriving because she’s staying in the Carlos III Hospital until she either gets better or . . . At least there’s no “eye in the sky” helicopter like there was the day they brought Br Pajares from the airport.

All we talk about at work is ebola. Most people are coming down heavy on the government. Dr García Viejo should never have been brought home, they say. It was too much of a risk. As with my friend this morning, there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth vis-à-vis how Spain always seems to find itself in compromising situations and how it is usually its ruling classes who lead it into the mire. We are hungry for news. El País is refreshed every couple of minutes. We have decided that the other newspapers and the state broadcaster, RTVE, are not to be trusted.

By lunch time the news is out that three individuals have been isolated; as a precaution. They haven’t tested positive — yet. The three are: the nurse’s aid’s husband; a nurse co-worker of the woman; the unrelated case of a man who arrived from Nigeria off a flight. (Two sources of potential infection, by the way; time to get the worry beads out.) Fifty of the infected woman’s co-workers and close contacts are “under observation”. It’s funny how I revel in breaking these new developments to people who have been away from the internet and radio. Not only have I become an ebola news junkie in the last twelve hours, but I’m starting to push this sordid drug on others.

Apart from an avalanche of speculation, reports of another tense press conference from the health minister and fiery scenes in parliament, there is no real news for the rest of the day. It’s wait and see. The camera crews leave the gate near our building at five p.m.

The only new story between lunchtime and the nine o’clock news is that of the infected nurse’s aid’s dog. The husband has appealed in a Twitter video which has now gone viral for people to do something to save the couple’s dog, who is to be destroyed. You can understand where the poor man is coming from, but Jesus . . .


About ucronin

Microbiologist, brewer, writer, fan of James Joyce, guitar player and gardener, U. Cronin was born in the county town of Ennis, Co. Clare. He's spent much of his adult years moving country — between Spain and Ireland — and at present he is to be found back in his native town. Author of five novels and working on a sixth, U. is back in the lab and engaging his passion for looking for bugs using very bright lasers. Let's hope it turns out well!
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5 Responses to The Ebola Diary: Tuesday, Oct 7 2014, Madrid

  1. You’re a very talented writer. I’m in Madrid as well. My young students truly think this is the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. I think it’s overblown. I hope it’s overblown. Thank you for sharing.

    • ucronin says:

      Thank you. I agree that there is a lot of hype and the media is really going to town on this, but the possibility does exist that this could get worse. The fact that I work on the Carlos III campus and live in the neighbourhood is giving me the heebie-jeebies, to be honest.

  2. Reblogged this on Año 1013 and commented:
    Completely agree!! I feel sorry about the husband but.. The dog..
    What a disaster of government !!!!!

  3. I wonder how people are able to leave when they have been at the front lines of the problem. We have folks that have come back here. No drugs left! Making it takes an abundance of material.
    I agree. Build a field hospital there. Let them stay there. No one should leave an infected country. How hard is that? !

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