This story is part of a series on the devastating effects of the coronavirus in Colombia’s southeastern Amazonas province. Click here if you want to contribute to relief efforts
The stories of the Yucuna and Matapi peoples I grew up with in southeast Colombia are rich in glory, but some are of all-consuming viruses that left my ancestors defenseless.
We believed these horror stories of epidemics decimating our peoples were history, until a few months ago, when a pandemic struck again and the coronavirus proved they weren’t.
In my case, my family was directly affected: both my parents and my brother got infected. The situation was so critical, that I thought I would lose my parents.
I reached out to the hospital and the clinic in Leticia, but was told that they could not help us due to a lack of capacity.
In a desperate attempt to try and save them, the only thing I could do was use my basic first aid skills, acquired through my work as a guide in the Amazon.
My father, on the verge of death, had high fever, respiratory attacks and could no longer take in any food or liquids, causing the deterioration to speed up.
Luckily, I managed to connect with a medical friend of mine (Dr. Nadia Osorio Brito, to whom I am forever grateful), who suggested I put him on an IV.
With all the patience in the world, she walked me through the process of provisionally applying the IV. That way, we avoided dehydration and my father’s death.
The next step was getting in nutrients, which we managed by pulverizing and mixing food with water and forcing it into my father’s body. In the meantime, the sickness started to have the same impact on my mother and brother, so we applied the same techniques to them.
After a few days of this, the fever was under control and my mother and brother started to show signs of actual recovery. My father’s respiratory attacks, however, did not stop.
Luckily, I managed to find a nebulizer to help improve his breathing and managed to get it flown over to Leticia with the help of a friend. Thanks to this machine, my father started to feel better and now I can say that my whole family is out of danger.
Unfortunately, this story with a happy ending is an exception here in the Amazon. Most people do not have access to medical contacts to whom they can reach out for help.
The healthcare system has collapsed, food prices have skyrocketed and if nothing is done quickly, I am afraid the coronavirus pandemic will be as the viruses of old, brought from overseas, turning this lush paradise into a den of death.