We interviewed Dr. Sebastià Videla, clinical pharmacologist and head of the IDIBELL Clinical Research Department, as well as a specialist from the Clinical Pharmacology Service of the Bellvitge University Hospital.
How do you feel?
Well, without any symptoms right now. A week ago (April 7) I was discharged, the same day I already work at the hospital. Now I am waiting for the serology results.I’m glad.
How was the diagnosis? What was the warning sign?
Well, on Monday, we were in a meeting working on the protocol of a clinical trial with Dr. Jordi Carratalá and Dr. Carlota Gudiol. During the meeting, I was coughing all the time. Dr. Gudiol told me that she did not like my cough at all, that I should test me. He had been coughing for more than a week. The next day I went to the Preventive Medicine Unit and they did the PCR test, which was positive.
In any case, I only had a dry, irritating cough, and about three or four days of very tiredness, no more symptoms. I have had a mild illness, to put it in some way.
What did you do when you know that you were positive for the COVID-19?
I went confined to my home, my little office and my room.
Professionally, you are very active in the coordination of clinical trials, have you participated in any of these trials?
I guess you’re asking me about participating in a clinical trial as a patient. This is a good question. I thought about it a lot, and I decided that for the first time I would not participate in any clinical trials. Well, I was a patient infected with SARS-CoV-2, but mild, with little symptomatology. I considered that with conservative measures and confinement: staying home, using the mask, washing my hands often, keeping safe distances… would be enough.
Why did you decide not to participate in the beginning?
I did a conscious analysis of the drugs proposed as ‘anti-COVID’, focusing on non-hospital patients, as was my case. We are dealing with a disease that we poorly understood. We are in a situation where many questions remain open and we cannot answer yet. Also, I have the feeling that we are making hypotheses of a possible treatment from the despair and frustration that this crisis has evocated us.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that I do not believe that clinical trials should be done to obtain evidence that leads us to conclusions. But I think, and I don’t want to be pessimistic, that in many cases the results may not be the expected ones.
The research, especially clinical research, but the research, in general, will bring us the knowledge to be able to attack the pandemic. Research is necessary, and in hospitals such as the Bellvitge University Hospital or the Catalan Institute of Oncology, with the support of IDIBELL, research must be at the same level as clinical practice.
These days, there have been many signs of support for the healthcare community. Did you identify it?
I think so! It is nice that the people recognize the health community work. But now we are heroes because the fear, I hope that when all this finishes, we still recognize this work, especially the doctors, nurses and other health personnel who are treating the disease on the front line. As a researcher I am in a second line, I do not treat patients directly. When all this finishes, I hope people don’t forget that if we are heroes now and then we continue doing the same job, will we still be heroes? I hope that this crisis has a positive effect: the continuous improvement of our medicine.
What can we positively get from this crisis? What have we learned?
That we must prepare for a similar situation in the future. Now this situation takes us unprepared, we have to learn from the past and we must prepare ourselves for the future. Don’t we perform fire drills? Well, then we must prepare and plan what we have to do in the case of a pandemic. We should think about it easily, with calm. Although in recent years we have had other epidemics such as Ebola, SARS or MERS, here we have seen it very far and it has not helped us to think about what to do.
Personally, what has this disease taught you?
It is the second time in my life that I am isolated from a disease. When I was young, I suffered from leukemia and I had to be isolated too. Now, this disease has reminded me of how vulnerable we are… Often we believe that we are extremely strong, but we are not really.
If I can, I would like to thank all my colleagues that cared for me these days, sending me WhatsApp, e-mails or calling me, but I especially, I want to thank Dr. Miquel Pujol for his telematic medical visits almost daily.