It was only when I saw Félix Báez Sarría, kicking and alive, without wearing the cosmonaut suit that isolated him from the rest of the world, arriving at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport, that the knot I felt in my throat disappeared. This emotion had been accompanying me right since the morning of November 19th, when I heard the note by the Ministry of Health that read: one of our doctors in Western Africa has been positive for Ebola virus.
I have been following the news since the very beginning when he was reported in “critical condition”, and it was all what the media said; when his health condition began to improve; when he began to eat by himself; when the specialists that cared for him began to feel optimistic; until the last medical reports released by the University Hospital of Geneva (HUG), in Switzerland, in which his definitive recovery was confirmed.
It was certified that his body fluids were free of Ebola virus. The statement was so categorically said that I didn’t dare to question it, even when I read somewhere that this virus is still present in the semen of infected men three months after their recovery. Whether this is true or just media speculation, I’m sure that Cuban experts must have taken this into consideration not to add new symptoms to the national epidemiological picture.
What Dr. Báez felt when the fever began to invade his body, when he was in pain, when his immunological system tried to repel the virus can be explained by him now that he’s already free from hermetic chambers, and that the quarantine days are gone.
“I always knew I would come out of this situation”, he confessed when interviewed upon his arrival in Cuba. I wonder how he could be so sure about that?; how could he manage to recompose himself being far from home and from his colleagues?; how could he overcome the maremágnum he went through and which Dr. Jorge Pérez, director of the Institute of Tropical Medicine “Pedro Kouri” (IPK) termed as a huge ordeal.
But it was not the phrase used by Dr. Pérez, but the hug that Félix Báez gave to his wife, his son, and the officials that welcomed him at the airport, what really calmed the nerves of all the Cubans who, like me, followed each of the reports received from Geneva, or the notes by the Ministry of Public Health.
Taking into consideration his determination, I wouldn’t doubt that the next news to be announced about Dr. Félix Báez Sarría could be his return to Western Africa, the forgotten land which has become a burden on the world’s consciousness due to its most recent mortality statistics: over 6 000 have died of Ebola in little more than a year time.
“I finish what I started”, he said and I believe him, since I’m dazzled by such a man who confronted the Ebola virus with the resolution of a martyr. I’ve been very moved ever since.