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Another postcard from covid

"Save one life or save another. Like Philippa Foot's dilemma. You know,
the one about the train that if it goes on one track it will hit one person but if it goes on the other it hits five.
Which way should you divert the tram?"

Teo Peñarroja

By Teo Peñarroja
Former student of Philosophy and Journalism at the University of Navarra.
Currently, journalist for the magazine Nuestro Tiempo.

Another postcard from covid

My mother had returned from the hospital the other day in a happy mood - that's putting it mildly, in this day and age there is no such thing as complete joy. The reason was an elderly man with advanced cancer. He was admitted with a complication and had to be transferred to the ICU. In addition, he had to be given treatment that was not available at the rather modest hospital; the man had to be transferred to a larger facility. Start management. He called one of the large hospitals. There is no room for him: it is all coronavirus. He calls another; no room for him either. He picks up the phone even for a third hospital. They have two free beds in the ICU, but they don't want to admit the man.

-Understand," they said to him, more or less, I didn't hear him, on the other end of the line, "at that age and with cancer, we can't bring him here, he would be taking the place of someone younger and with more projection.

Save one life or save another. Like Philippa Foot's dilemma. You know, the one about the train that if it goes on one track it will run over one person but if it goes on the other it will run over five. Which way should you divert the tram? It seemed like we were never going to experience something like that, right? That it would never happen to us like it did to Spiderman, when the Green Goblin forces him to choose between saving Mary Jane or a carriage full of children.

Plan B for this cancer patient is to let him die at home. After all, he is incurable, it doesn't matter much if he dies sooner or later. But my mother insists. My mother, like all mothers, or perhaps more than others, I don't know, has a certain gift of prophecy. In the most important moments of my life she has always known what I want or what I need before I do. I remember, for example, the day when she said as if it were a matter of course: "You want to go to Navarre". And he did, but I knew it when I heard it on his lips. Like so many other things. Something similar must have happened to the person on the other end of the phone. More than the explanation - that despite being an oncology patient she has been undergoing treatment for years and has a full and happy life, which may last a long time yet - what convinces the other woman, I am sure, is the confidence with which my mother says:

-It is not yet their time.

She says it like that, in passing. If I say it, it sounds like a dialogue from an Antena3 film at lunchtime. But in her voice, the phrase is as natural as if she had said: "We have to buy bread". So they agree to let the man in.


It is eleven o'clock at night. We've all had dinner at home when the door slams. My mother has just come home from hospital. She's been very tired for two months because fighting the virus is a real pain in the ass, especially psychologically. But today she's as fresh as a daisy, I'd almost say that there is such a thing as complete joy after all. As she dips a dinosaur in her latte, she looks up and says:

-Do you remember the man we admitted the other day?

I do agreement, of course.

-He's out of the ICU. His doctor called me to tell me. He's fine and he's going home. He still has many years ahead of him.

It gives me great joy, although I do not know the gentleman.

-And he'll never know that if it wasn't for you he'd be dead, will he?

-No," she says, with her imposing naturalness, "but who cares.

Another postcard from covid



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