CREDENTIALS. With the help of the Welcome Back Center, Montaño moves through the process of obtaining her nursing credentials. Photo: Courtesy Dany Arcely Montaño.
Dany Arcely Montaño, a Bolivian nurse, has stood out in the first line of action against the COVID-19 pandemic, which has lived in the first person. This Latina woman works at Holy Cross Hospital in Germantown, Maryland. But this was not always the case, he came to the United States like most migrants: to start from scratch.
In the United States, Montaño worked in cleaning, as a waitress and as a nanny, after accumulating 10 years of experience as a nurse in Cochabamba, a city in Bolivia. In Hispanic Heritage Month, stories such as those of this worker stand out, who with her empathy and closeness with patients makes a difference on a day-to-day basis.
“I started working in the hospital in February of last year as a nursing assistant and when the pandemic hit it was like being in a horror movie,” Montaño said in an interview for El Tiempo Latino in May of this year.
Remember that when entering the rooms of patients with coronavirus, a chill ran from head to toe. In those moments, the best of teamwork emerged in the hospital units. There was time to cry and to smile, and colleagues were never lacking with a gesture or a few words of encouragement.
“It is something inexplicable what the affection and concern of a partner achieves just at moments when the world seems to sink at our feet.” In May of last year, he fell ill with COVID-19. He presented fever and pain in muscles and bones. After recovering, despite endless fatigue, he returned and continued his work tirelessly.
“Imagine the trauma of seeing so many patients lamenting that they were short of breath, the fear of opening the door and not knowing if they were still alive or had been lost. At the beginning of the pandemic, that was the most terrible part to face day after day. The sadness of seeing families lose their loved ones, of taking them away in post mortem covers, the emotional and physical exhaustion and the fear of infecting us. It wasn’t a horror movie, it was reality. You had to see it to understand it, ”said Montaño.
Among the cases, he recalled that of a Hispanic man, young and strong. He was very agitated and she smiled at him, but the mask and the plastic cover over his face prevented that gesture from giving any comfort to the patient. Despite having an artificial respirator, he noticed that his oxygen level was very low. “What can I do to make him feel better?” He asked, “Just help me sit up,” the patient asked.
When he was being taken to intensive care, the man asked him: “Am I going to die?” A “no” and a smile that hit the mask again was answered. “Days later I wanted to hear from him. He had died leaving two very young children and a wife. That day I fell apart. Like those, I saw many stories of my Hispanic people ”, he narrated.
In the midst of the desolation, seeing a patient who came in drowned and went home breathing on his own represented hope and a trophy of effort and dedication. “You can’t imagine how gratifying it was for me to speak Spanish to those who had the most difficulty communicating. Returning them to the families out of harm’s way is the best reward ”.
Initially, the majority of patients were Hispanic, one of the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
In times of emergencies, doctors, nurses, or aides have to double down. When orderlies were lacking, workers like Montaño were there to push a stretcher or wheelchair, and take the patient in recovery to the exit to meet with a family member.
“I just follow my passion”
Montaño is in the process of obtaining her nursing credentials from the Welcome Back Center in Montgomery County. This is an organization that helps professionals to validate their studies abroad, learn English and obtain their work licenses.
They have told him that perhaps in times of a pandemic it is not worth being a nurse, but Montaño has an answer: “I just follow my passion. Caring for a patient is an art, there is nothing that gives more joy than giving encouragement to a patient in the place where he least wants to be and seeing him go home so grateful. That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. I am getting closer and closer to achieving it, because I don’t know how to give up (…) In my case, my husband Michael and my little Andrés are my best encouragement ”.
While that day arrives, continue doing the same slow but safe ritual: putting on the uniform, the gloves, the mask, the surgical cap, the plastic protector all over the face, the gown, the surgical shoes and a smile that no one can now. watch. So she’s ready to change the sheets, take vital signs, blood pressure and oxygen, and act as a translator when, she says, “my people need me.”
Information from Olga Imbaquingo.