May 5, 2021

Easter in a Ward With Covid-19 Patients


The following refers to events that took place on Easter in 2020 at the Pathology Clinic of Sotiria Hospital in Athens, written from the perspective of a patient that night.

It's been days now that I'm stuck in a bed, alone and weak. I don't remember when I went to the hospital, I don't remember what day it was or what time. I only remember the horror in my wife's eyes when the test for covid-19 came out positive.

I don't know where I caught it and it doesn't matter so much. I know that my life changed from one moment to the next. Everything that I considered important yesterday until now seems silly and tragically ridiculous.

I didn't know if I would escape death or not. Nor could I guess from the eyes of the doctors and nurses. You see, with the uniforms, the masks and the protective glasses, not only is there no eye contact, but also the tone of the voice is distorted.

Hours and days pass, without having the courage to count them. Sometimes I am immersed in a lethargy that seems more like death and other times - rarely - I stretch out my ears to grab some conversation from the few who exchange in the hall. I look out the window. A deep blue Attic sky calms me and mocks me, reminding me that it is spring. A swallow hits my glass affirming that yes, the spring crashed into the winter, but my winter I do not know when it will end.

Yesterday I heard the bell ring with a melancholic tone. "It's my funeral" I thought and out of terror I almost threw the respirator. But no, I am still in the monotonous chamber, with the white curtains, with the serums hanging on the stand, with my hands pierced, with the silence, the monotonous and torturous silence.

Today, paradoxically, I opened my eyes in a different mood. The nurse apologized for waking me up, trying to change the serum. I smiled at her. I looked out the window. The same blue sky, the same persistence of spring, the same persistence of life. These are outside the hospital, outside the ward. Inside, death is crushed with hope.

Late in the afternoon the doctors came in. They read my card carefully. They looked into each other's eyes for a few seconds. Then they nodded to each other in the affirmative and all together nodded to the nurse. She came to me and judging by her eyes, it seemed to me that she was smiling. Slowly they disconnect the ventilator.

"Happy Resurrection!" she said to me with obvious joy, and seeing the question in my eyes she continued, "Tomorrow is Easter! Your wife will be very happy when we tell her at the standard communication time. You will be happy too ... tonight we have a surprise for all the patients."

From that moment I started to have hopes, a lot of hopes. My death knocked on my door, but he did not finally decide to visit me.

Not that I understood when it was night. The lanterns in the sky lit up one by one. The moon in its waning sends its little light to people. An Easter lilac tilts its branches. I feel that its intoxicating aroma penetrates the glass and dissolves the smell of death.

What a contrast, inside and outside the window glass. Outside "small spring, deep spring...", as the poet says. Inside fourteen patients struggling with such a tiny and invisible thing. "Devastating spring."

"Tomorrow is the Resurrection. Tonight the bells will ring with joy." Immersed in thoughts I did not hear the melody that reached my ears. At first it just sounded, but as the seconds passed it got louder and louder. "Christ is risen from the dead ...". I shook. Is the anticipation so great that it creates illusions? "... and to those in the tombs bestowing life". No it is not in my head. Beautiful angelic voices are heard from the veranda, outside our chamber.

I did my best to get up and sit on the bed. Six doctors and four nurses, all the staff on duty, with lanterns in their hands sing sweet, angelic resurrection hymns.

Then they came near the windows. They also reached mine. Now they were no longer wearing masks and smiles were pouring down their faces.

A girl left on the window sill of my window, a red egg, a tealight and a beautiful card.

"Christ is Risen!" I read on her lips.

"Truly He is risen!" I shouted at her with all the power of my soul.

It is Great Saturday night.

I am alone, sitting on the bed in the chamber.

I don't know when I will get out of here.

Nor how will my life be after the pandemic.

But I know for sure that the most moving Easter of my life is this, at the Respiratory Insufficiency Center of the III Pathology Clinic of "Sotiria" Hospital, on the night of Holy Saturday 2020.

Away from my own.

Away from the church.

Without a candle.

Without holy light.

But with Christ resurrected!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.