Undertakers with the coffin of priest Miguel Pajares. :: ignacio gil
The Spanish missionary who was flown back to Spain to be treated after contracting the deadly virus ebola, has died in hospital.
In the early hours of last Tuesday morning doctors at the Carlos 111 hospital noticed that 75 year old Pajares was struggling to breathe, as he had on numerous occasions in the preceding days.
To his heart condition - he was planning to return to Toledo at the beginning of September for tests - was added the effects of the ebola virus which left his kidneys very vulnerable and his immune system weak.
Pajares’ doctors made the decison to sedate him and then it was only a matter of time. At 9.28am the priest became Europe’s first victim of the deadly disease.
Strict health procedures
With the same strict regulations in place as those during the last days of his life, doctors clad in protective suits and gloves prepared to follow the rigid protocol to cremate Pajares, a few hours after his death. His body was laid in a coffin, to all extents and purposes like any other but actually lined with a specially zippered shroud to prevent the highly infectious disease from spreading.
A packed memorial service was held on Wednesday in the chapel of the San Rafael hospital with 32 priests, 40 members of Pajares’ family and members of the missionary order, Juan de Dios, and its NGO, Juan Ciudad, that he belonged to. The latter’s director, José María Viadero, gave an emotional speech in which he said, “knowing him as I did, I know that he wouldn’t have let me talk about him. He would wanted the sick to be remembered instead”.
Ana Mato, the Minister for Health attended the service as did Ana Botella, the Mayor of Madrid. A smaller private ceremony for those closest to the priest followed on Wednesday.
Pajares, who was a trained nurse, contracted the disease while he was caring for the director of the San José hospital in Liberia’s capital Monrovia, Patrick Nshamdze, who was suffering from ebola and died on Saturday August 2nd.
It appears that the missionary, who spent 18 years working in various parts of Africa, had a great love for the continent and was persuaded reluctantly by his order to be repatriated. With him came a nun, Juliana Bohé, of joint Ghana and Spanish nationality who worked alongside him and who has not contracted the disease but remains in an isolation unit in the Carlos III hospital.
Pajares appeared to be in a stable though weak condition in the first few days of his hospitalization and was being treated with the experimental serum ZMapp which was developed in the United States. His death was sudden and unexpected.
According to the World Health Organization 1,013 people - of 1,848 registered cases - have died from ebola in West Africa since March. Among those who have contracted the disease are colleagues of Miguel Pajares including George Combey and Chantal Pasculine, who both died last week.