DR. CARLOS ARAUJO-PREZA
Last night I was watching CNN news when a familiar face and name was on the screen. In shock, I recognized my beloved lung specialist and he had died on November 30th 2020 of Covid-19. According to the various news reports, he had worked 80 hour weeks since the Pandemic started trying to help his hospitalized patients. As a respiratory expert he was always on the front line for Covid-19. He was 52 with two young adult children. He was a brilliant mind who had immigrated to the USA from El Salvador enhancing the lives of all his patients. This is the article from CNN.
He was utterly charming and warm, able to empathize and sympathize with compassion. I first met him 8 years ago when I was the victim of a traumatic car crash. Initially they took me to ER to check my spine as it was a rear end impact. To everyone’s surprise the scans revealed an egg sized tumor or cyst in my chest cavity – nothing to do with the accident. They referred me, one by one, to neurologists, a cardiac surgeon and finally to Dr. Carlos. I was mentally traumatized by my first car accident in the USA with all the insurance shenanigans, the ludicrous medical bills and then the unexpected tumor/cyst. The cardiac surgeon said that they normally surgically removed cysts of that size but they would have to deflate a lung to do so and would not recommend it.
By the time I got to Dr. Carlos, I was a mess, mentally and physically. He thoroughly reassured me that it was a congenital cyst, not cancerous, and best just to keep an eye on it. Over the years, I visited him and he always made me feel like a Princess. Last year, I went for a routine scan and check. To everyone’s surprise the cyst had shrunk down to the size of a raisin. Hurrah! It was a lovely celebratory doctor’s appointment and I thanked him profusely. I had another routine scan arranged for February 2020. It was before quarantine but I cancelled it because I can physically feel when the cyst gets larger. The staff members at his office were delightful as always and reassured me that I could make an appointment at any time. But now I can’t.
Few of us know people who have died from Covid-19 or its complications but now I do. He was very special to me and to all his other adoring patients. I can still hear his voice – he sounded exactly like the Puss in Boots from the film Shrek. I have been very careful this year because I am surrounded by immunosuppressed neighbors and friends. On a personal note, I was unsure if my lung history made me at higher risk. Would my cyst expand if attacked by the corona virus? I know we hate this strange time but we have the vaccines now and it will be a relatively short time until life becomes safer. Please, please wear a mask. Assume that everyone could be exposed to the virus. Think about it as a wartime scenario. Unemployment, poverty and social chaos are with us but we will be stronger. Just be safe and unselfish for a few months more.
Dr. Carlos Araujo-Preza, you epitomized what makes America a good place. I will never forget you. Thank you for the gift of compassion.