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“Beautiful torture:” the return of Doctor Cecilio Eck after COVID-related brush with death

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Posted: Friday, May 27, 2022. 10:02 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Joining the Ministry of Health’s Dr Natalia Largaespada Beer this morning for the launch of its campaign for vaccination of five to 11-year-olds was a man many did not expect to make it this far – or indeed at all.

Pediatrician Doctor Cecilio Eck was left confined to a wheelchair after contracting COVID-19 and now moves around with a pair of crutches.

But he was eloquent and humble in describing his journey back from near-death and therapy – and unstinting in his declaration that vaccination and careful living will spare Belizeans from the worst effects of the virus.

Dr Eck observed, “One of my good friends calls me Lazarus squared because I was intubated twice, I had bleeding inside and I had to do surgery and I spent a month in hospital… But going home after a month was not the end; that was the beginning of therapy and I again applaud my beautiful torturer, I call her; Miss Trejo, my physiotherapist. She was there when I was extubated, she was there when I was intubated and she’s been there through my whole progress and recovery.”

Dr Eck explained that in his case the “unpredictable” virus attacked his nerves and left him unable to move. After a few weeks in home care, it took time for him to progress to sitting up, and then, in what he described as “one of the cruel ironies,” “I had to learn to walk again like a baby. So [sitting] up, then going to standing, during that time I was in a wheelchair in my home so I had to revamp my home with ramps. So, from the wheelchair to a walker to my crutch sticks now. The pool therapy works. I’ve been in the pool every day. Miss Trejo comes with me and tortures me in a beautiful way.” On his hospital bed, he had to be administered the Prayer for the Dying (in the Catholic tradition, also known as the Last Rites).

Dr Eck took time to applaud the entire team that cared for him, led by Dr Pedro Arriaga; his wife and his kids.

And if there is one lesson to be learned, he says, his experience has taught him that COVID-19 is very much real: “It teaches me what a critical care patient goes through and I don’t wish it on anyone. So if anybody would come and ask me about vaccines, I would be right behind doctor beer promoting it, please vaccinate your kids, please vaccinate yourselves, it is not a made-up illness. I am living proof that you can recover from it, but it is really costly and it is really debilitating if you are lucky as I am.”

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