In a village a few kilometres outside the city of Thessaloniki, a nurse set up an ICU unit at his home to provide the necessary care to his wife and in-laws who fell ill with the deadly virus.
Critical care nurse Gabriel Tachtatzoglou, did not like the treatment options available in Greece’s second-largest city when his wife, both her parents and her brother came down with coronavirus in November.
Thessaloniki has been one of the hardest hit areas for the second wave of COVID-19.
When Tachtatzoglou’s relatives tested positive for the virus, he himself had to quarantine and could not go to work.
So he decided to put his ICU experience to use by looking after them himself. That decision, his family says, probably saved their lives.
“If we had gone to the hospital, I don’t know where we would have ended up,” the nurse’s 64-year-old mother-in-law, Polychoni Stergiou, told the Associated Press. “That didn’t happen, thanks to my son-in-law.”
He set up a makeshift ICU at his family’s home in the village of Agios Athanasios, by renting, borrowing and modifying the monitors, oxygen delivery machines and other equipment his loved ones might need.
“I’ve been working in the intensive care ward for 20 years, and didn’t want to put my in-laws through the psychological strain of separation. Plus, there was already a lot of pressure on the health service,” Tachtatzoglou said.
The nurse remained in contact with doctors at Papageorgiou Hospital (where he works) daily, while caring for his family.
He told AP that he would have hospitalised any of the four if they needed to be intubated.
“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.”
All his family members recovered, although Tachtatzoglou eventually became infected with the virus 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.”