In Mexico, COVID-19 Patient Recovers After Seeking Care At Hospital

Partners In Health responds to pandemic in Chiapas with compassionate care

Posted on Dec 17, 2020

elderly patient sits on his front porch at home in Chiapas, Mexico. He wears a face mask.
Armando Torres, a patient who has recovered from COVID-19, resting at home in rural Chiapas and wearing a face mask. Photos by Paola Rodriguez / Partners In Health

Armando Torres is a 67-year-old father of four who has dedicated most of his life to working on coffee crops, as do most people in the Sierra Madre region of Chiapas, Mexico. Torres greets everyone he encounters with a big smile and is known for his warm personality.

In the middle of August, Torres woke up feeling nauseous. As the day went on, he started vomiting and feeling feverish. At first, he thought it was just an intestinal infection caused by something he might have eaten. But it didn’t feel normal or like any of the usual side effects of his diabetes. After a couple of days, he started coughing and became exhausted after doing simple activities, like talking or walking around the house. One afternoon, he felt his legs shaking as he attempted to get up from his chair.

“I can’t remember anything after that, until I woke up later that night in the hospital,” he says. “I was in a wheelchair and the doctors were bringing an oxygen concentrator to me. I felt so lost.”

Then the COVID-19 diagnosis came.

Torres’ family had doubts about even taking him to the hospital, as disinformation was spreading in the community and taking advantage of people’s fear of the disease—there were even claims that patients arriving to the hospital would be killed. But one of Torres’ sons knew that many patients had recovered and been discharged from the Respiratory Disease Center in Jaltenango, where Compañeros En Salud, as Partners In Health is known locally, works.

Going to the hospital was a decision that may have saved Torres’ life.

“My father was treated as soon as we got to the hospital,” says Armando Torres Jr. “They helped him stabilize, but he was in a critical situation.”

Compañeros En Salud works in nine rural communities in Chiapas. Its COVID-19 response has included supporting Jaltenango Hospital and community clinics with staff, resources, and education, as well as training community health workers to focus on the pandemic response. Compañeros En Salud’s COVID-19 response comes in addition to the vital health services it continues to provide for patients across its programs.

patient is triaged outside Jaltenango Hospital during COVID-19 response
A nurse triages patients in the outdoor waiting room at Jaltenango Hospital in Chiapas, Mexico. 

At Jaltenango Hospital, which Compañeros En Salud has supported since 2011, patients like Torres not only receive treatment and care for the virus, but also support for their mental health and emotional well-being.

When Torres’ family understood the severity of his condition, they considered taking him to a larger hospital about 1.5 hours away from Jaltenango. But that would have meant they wouldn’t be able to see him until he was discharged—and only if he recovered.

“Here, in the Respiratory Disease Center, they gave us the opportunity to visit my father,” says Armando Torres Jr. “That really calmed him down.”

It was an outcome that Dr. Ana Laura Rodríguez, who treated Torres, noticed too: whenever his family was close to him, his oxygen saturation would improve.

“We provide families with personal protective equipment and allow them to visit the patients so that they won’t feel lonely and to generate a therapeutic alliance,” says Rodríguez. “This is something that no other hospital does. This way, our patients feel supported by their families and can go home earlier.”

Jaltenango Hospital’s visitation policy also helps families feel reassured about where their loved ones are staying and that they are receiving quality medical attention.

Now, Torres is recovering at home with his family. He says that he has learned so much from this experience—as harrowing as it was. “I was in the hospital for 18 days,” he says. “I was worried about my family, and I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I trusted the medical team and thanks to them, I’m now back home.”

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