72 years have passed since the Abolition of the Army in Costa Rica; but 2020 made us arm ourselves again with a battalion of people to face an invisible enemy that has attacked us from silence, SARS-CoV-2. This new troop, dressed in white gabachas and light green clothing, is the health personnel who fight every day against COVID-19.
During the pandemic, 17 health officials have lost their lives to the virus, so it was decided that the medal of merit for peace and democracy, which is awarded every 1 December, would be awarded to members of the first emergency response corps in recognition of their work in dealing with the pandemic.
On 1 December last, the formal ceremony and the awarding of this distinction took place, with the decoration of the late Dr. Jaime Solís Quesada still pending. This was settled on Tuesday 20 January, when the President of the Republic, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, the Executive President of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), Román Macaya Hayes, and the Minister of Health, Daniel Salas Peraza, presented the award to the pneumologist Wing Ching Chan Cheng, wife of the recipient.
Solís worked at the hospital San Juan de Dios as a specialist in critical medicine and intensive care for 26 years. He was a great colleague and a great teacher.
He was a father of three children and had just celebrated 30 years of marriage when SARS-CoV-2 interrupted his life story at the age of 54 on 22 October.
“There is no greater honour in life, in a person’s profession, than to give one’s life to protect others. Dr Solís fulfilled his professional and ethical commitment in the midst of the pandemic, to be of service to his country, by continuing to practice medicine and treating patients affected by various diseases, including the coronavirus,” said President Alvarado.
And he added: today it is up to us to honour him and thank him on behalf of the people of Costa Rica for his dedication, hard work and mystique. For being an example of the Costa Rica of solidarity, the one that represents us.
For his part, Dr. Macaya expressed his feelings of loss for the CCSS and for the San Juan de Dios hospital. “The death of Dr. Solís has been a heavy blow, which will take us as an institution a long time to overcome, not only because of the professional who left us, but also because of his charisma, his dedication to his work and his sympathy,” said Macaya.
Together with her two children, Dr. Wing received the award and acknowledged her gratitude as a doctor and as a wife. “This recognition is not only the work of him (Dr. Solis) but of thousands of health workers who are fighting against the pandemic, constituting the first barrier against COVID-19,” said Wing.