COVID-19: A Physician Faces Her Greatest Challenge
NPH El Salvador’s main physician helps protect hundreds of children and staff from the threat of a global pandemic.
March 31, 2020 - El Salvador
My name is Karla Alejandra Garcia Monterrosa and I’m a general practitioner. I graduated from Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM) in Cuba in 2014 and I came to NPH El Salvador in 2016.
Since the rise of novel coronavirus COVID-19 in December 2019, it has been a cause of great concern for healthcare professionals the world over, especially seeing the sickness and death it has caused in countries with advanced, well-developed public healthcare systems. As of 31 March 2020, we have 32 confirmed cases in El Salvador, a relatively low number compared to other countries in the region; however, I consider this one of the greatest healthcare challenges I may face in my career.
The challenges are huge because, above all, the most important thing is to preserve the health of all children and prevent this virus from affecting the NPH family. We have taken a number of preventive measures, for example:
• Suspending family visits (in concert with local judges, as needed),
• Proactive outreach to medical specialists who provide treatment for existing complex medical cases in the Home. Close monitoring of these children is in place and all specialists are on alert and accessible,
• Strict policy of referring only emergency cases to the local hospital, which we have not needed to do so far,
• Teaching children to wash their hands properly and give them constant encouragement to use the proper technique,
• Implementing modified social distancing within NPH El Salvador
• Providing instruction to staff about COVID-19 and proactively responding to staff questions and requests for additional support
On 21 March the Salvadoran government announced a mandatory nationwide home quarantine lasting 30 days to dampen spread of the virus. Since 19 March, I have been residing at Casa Sagrada Familia along with two nurses. We work 24-hour shifts, which has meant leaving our own families to help ensure the well-being of the children. It is my duty to do everything possible to prevent an occurrence of COVID-19 in our home.
Why I became a doctor
“I liked playing doctor so much that I decided to play it all my life.” That’s the phrase I usually use to explain my choice of profession. When I was a girl, I used to ask for doctor toys; the stethoscope was my favorite.
I have always liked helping others. Being a doctor is a great way to help people in need, from providing critical healthcare support to the sick to listening to those who feel they have no voice in their own care plan.
It was a real blessing for me to come to a place like NPH. I had been sending my CV to different places and interviewed with two of them. I knew immediately it was the NPH role that I wanted most. When I got the call telling me I’d been selected, I jumped for joy.
From the very first, I fell in love with the little smiles I saw here. I strongly believe God has a purpose for each of us, and for me it is to work at a wonderful place like NPH. Among my most cherished memories is the story of little boy I was treating. There is a moment in a longer story about him when he called me ‘mom’. He and others have shown me how much love there is to give here, and if one gives love and support to the children, you can be a significant force for good in their lives.
Being a doctor at NPH is not easy. After all, NPH El Salvador supports 378 children, 123 of whom live at Casa Sagrada Familia. One has to get to know all the kids from head to toe, their ailments, what medications they need, what they are allergic to, their likes and dislikes. At the same time, it is so satisfying when one of the kids says ‘thank you,’ hugs you, or shares part of his life with you.
We know that we will go through a difficult period battling COVID-19 both inside and outside the home. But with the support of the global NPH family from far and wide, we shall overcome this challenge. We put our faith in God and are committed to protecting our children and staff. We must be united and strong.
Note from NPH El Salvador
I commend Dr. Karla for her courage, kindness, and passion for what she does. NPH El Salvador deeply appreciates the great sacrifice she has made to remain with us during this difficult time. We are blessed that she is a member of our family. — NPH El Salvador National Director Dora Serrano
Please support our NPH homes during this time of need. Any help you can give is well received and accepted graciously. Please visit nph.org for more information.
Dr. Karla Garcia Monterrosa
Physician, NPH El Salvador