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A veteran nurse in Greece transformed his own home into a makeshift intensive care unit to care for four critically ill patients with COVID-19 — his wife, as well as her parents and brother.
Gabriel Tachtatzoglou said he did not make the life-or-death decision lightly.
“We were reduced to tears,” the ICU nurse who works at Papageorgiou Hospital, which has been overburdened with COVID cases, told the Associated Press. “There were times when I was desperate, and I was really afraid I would lose them.”
Tachtatzoglou treated his wife and in-laws in the downstairs apartment of the family’s two-story home in the village of Agios Athanasios — with the crafty health expert using all he had on hand to make it work.
A hat stand was turned into an IV bag holder, which at one point was used to deliver antibiotics and medicine for dehydration and fevers.
He also rented, borrowed and modified the monitors, oxygen delivery machines and other machines needed to treat his coronavirus patients.
“I looked after them up until the point where it would pose no danger,” he said. “At all times, I was ready to move them to the hospital, if needed.”
Tachtatzoglou, who’s been working in the ICU for 20 years, said he was in constant contact with the hospital, ready to send his loved ones there in the event they had to be intubated.
But ultimately, he kept his in-laws at home to avoid putting them through “the psychological strain of separation.”
“Plus, there was already a lot of pressure on the health service,” Tachtatzoglou told the AP.
His mother-in-law, Polychoni Stergiou, was grateful for the nurse’s forward thinking.
“If we had gone to the hospital, I don’t know where we would have ended up,” the 64-year-old said. “That didn’t happen, thanks to my son-in-law.”
Once the relatives recovered, though, Tachtatzoglou became sick with COVID-19 himself.
“I took precautions when I treated them, but I didn’t have the personal protection gear you find in hospitals,” he said. “That’s probably how I got sick.”
Coronavirus infections in Greece have ballooned over recent months, going from 393 on Oct. 1 to 635 a month later. On Dec. 1, the country recorded 2,517 cases. On Tuesday, that number was 4,730.
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