Events in March seemed to go from bad to worse. News about the coronovirus was mounting up. What we had seen in China, what was happening in Italy, had now crossed the border to our country and our city. News came of schools being closed in Madrid from 11 March, the same day that the WHO declared a global pandemic. And on 14 March, Spain announced a state of alarm.
On a personal level, more and more friends were sick with the virus. Our WhatsApp groups became urgent prayer lists. I remember when my friend Maria Ester wrote to say that two of her brothers, José Pablo and Juan, were in the ER and were later admitted to hospital.
José Pablo Sánchez is the director of a Spanish television programme called Buenas noticias TV , and also director of Decisión España, which runs the Samaritan’s Purse operation Christmas Child, amongst other things.
José Pablo had pneumonia and feared for his life. He has talked about his experience with the coronavirus in various forums. In a Facebook video he says that when he was in hospital with a fever, weak and exhausted and breathing through an oxygen mask, he knew that God was with him and helped him get through this illness. He felt His presence, His peace and His company. He read the Bible a lot, particularly the Psalms and the book of Proverbs and gives thanks to God that he has now recovered, although he grieves for the many who have lost their lives. He doesn’t know why some are healed and others die, although he does know that, even when someone doesn’t make it, God is very present and comforts us and walks with us through the most difficult circumstances we face.
“Death was prowling through the corridors of that hospital.”
José Pablo published an interesting and moving article on Decision’s web page about five lessons he learnt while he was in hospital fighting against Covid-19.
“Death was prowling through the corridors of that hospital and I was well aware that it could come for me too, especially given my serious risk factors of high blood pressure and a heart condition. So I had to prepare myself for that eventuality. I cried out to God to protect my life and that of my family, as my wife also had the virus; my elder brother, his wife and my mother were also hospitalised in a different hospital.”
In the article, José Pablo talks about how music and worship have always been a source of joy and peace to him and helped calm his anxiety. The words of the songs affirmed foundational truths about God and were like an anchor for his soul, reminding him of God’s promises. He was also encouraged by the prayers of many people, not only those close to him. A gigantic tsunami of prayer went up to God for his healing.
“It was a blessing to feel enveloped and cared for by the prayers of thousands of brothers and sisters, who continue to write to me to see how I am. These prayers encouraged me so much and strengthened me and I am convinced that they contributed to my quick recovery. Once again, I want to thank God for covering me in prayer.”
Juan, José Pablo’s brother, tells his story.
“In the E.R. you think you can only get worse.”
Juan says that at first he did not realise how seriously the coronavirus had affected him. He was at home and had a fever, he lost his appetite and didn’t even want to drink. After he week, he was at risk of becoming dehydrated and as he wasn’t getting better he decided to go to the E.R. at the local hospital, in Torrejon de Ardoz, the town where he lives.
“You go to the E.R. hoping that, after the medical tests, you will be able to go home as you have no idea of how seriously the virus has affected you. It is frustrating when, after some x-rays and a blood test they tell you that you are going to be admitted as you need hospital care to recover from the coronavirus.
The E.R. experience is tough. For a day I was sitting on a chair, and the next day on a sofa, accompanied by other sick people who I could tell were worse off than me, and others who, fortunately for them, were able to go back home.
All you can think about is being assigned a hospital room as soon as possible, so the recovery process can begin in more favourable conditions; in E.R. you think you can only get worse. Obviously, this is a very subjective impression created by the situation.”
Finally Juan was assigned a hospital room.
“Once you are on the ward, the idea of recovery seems rather distant, and you just hope you can survive… although you know that you will be there for several days, at best, or perhaps for weeks if things don’t go well, since the course of the illness is full of unknowns and uncertainties.”
After a week in hospital, his temperature was back to normal and he had no respiratory problems, so it seemed likely that Juan would be able to go home and continue recovering there. He just had to wait for the results of a blood test.
However, a few days later, we heard that Juan had renal, liver and lung failure.
Every day the news was full of more and more deaths due to the coronavirus and I remember how another friend of ours, Marcos Zapata, encouraged us not to give in to fear and shared with us a story from Acts, in the New Testament, about Saint Paul when he was shipwrecked. At one point in the story Saint Paul tells his fellow sailors that no-one in the boat will lose their life:
But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down.Acts 27:22
These words filled me with faith and over the next few weeks helped me to face the terrible news we were hearing and to believe that we would come through this situation; I prayed fervently for the healing of our friends and family members. No-one from this particular group of friends lost their life, although, tragically, others did.
The results of Juan’s blood test were very discouraging, since his lungs, liver and kidneys had been affected and they did not know how the sickness would evolve, whether it would get worse, meaning he would go to the ICU, or whether he would improve.
“Fortunately, I improved, and a week later they sent me home, where I spent another two weeks with medical controls by telephone and finally I was given the all clear.”
“It is wonderful to see how love brings us together in extreme situations.”
Now recovered and at home, Juan reflects on his stay in hospital and having had Covid-19.
“When you are going through this situation, you feel that you are not alone, that there are many people who are concerned about you, and are following your sickness very closely and trying to give the best of themselves. Even people you don’t know about. It is wonderful to see how love brings us together in extreme situations.”
“We are wrapped up in cords of love that flow over us and we are not even aware of most of them, just as I wasn’t aware how serious the virus was. As a Christian, I must confess that during my illness I became more aware that these cords of love are infinite, as our Master says, because God is like a Father-Mother, an infinite source of life and love, who only desires what is good for his creation.”
“That is what I have felt during this time: all the care I received in the hospital, the prayers of family members and friends, messages of encouragement and continuous gestures of sincere love.”
The Spirit of God is a force of life that sustains and nurtures all human beings and leads them to live in fellowship and love with each other.”
“But also, very clearly, I have felt God to be the strength of my strength, like the prophet Isaiah says; that this Spirit of God, that is in all his creatures, is a strength of life that sustains and nurtures all human beings and leads them to live in fellowship and love with each other. My prayer to God is that this incredibly difficult time would make us more aware of those cords of love and would help us to build a more just and compassionate world.”
Thank you Juan and José Pablo Sánchez Núñez for sharing your experiences of the coronavirus.