Argentine Olympian-turned-doctor battles Covid-19

By Fernando Czyz

Buenos Aires, May 23 (efe-epa).- Mariela Antoniska, who guarded the goal for the Argentine women’s field hockey team that won Olympic medals and a world championship, now defends her compatriots against the coronavirus as a doctor at a pediatric hospital here.

The Buenos Aires metropolitan area, home to some 13 million of Argentina’s roughly 44 million people, accounts for a large share of the 10,636 confirmed Covid-19 cases and the 433 deaths blamed on the illness.

“It seems to me as if we are in a film and all of us are the stars. Just as I never imagined being world champion, I never thought that we could experience a situation like this at a global level,” Antoniska told Efe in an interview.

“It reminds of when I was a medical resident in 2009 in the time of the swine flu,” the 45-year-old former athlete said. “This coronavirus situation is like a pause in everyone’s life.”

Given the circumstances of the pandemic and the nature of a pediatric hospital, where patients are always accompanied by a parent or guardian, Antoniska and her colleagues often find themselves forced to rely on tele-medicine as a safer alternative to in-person consultations.

“What we can do is determine the necessity for immediate attention or determine the cases that can be handled though follow-up in a doctor’s office or via tele-medicine,” she said.

“Personally, it seems to me that a great deal of diagnostic capacity is lost in virtual consultations, but it is another option in this context,” Antoniska said.

“Sports left many lessons with me,” she said when asked how her prior experience as an athlete has helped her succeed as a doctor.

“I pursued my studies throughout my career while played, both with the club and with the Argentine national team, and I could combine two of my great passions. It’s two challenged: one on the hockey field and the other in the clinic with the kids to be able to reach an accurate diagnosis to achieve treatment to arrive at well-being,” the physician said.

“One of the things I took from my past in hockey to learning to work in a team, which applies in the hospital as much as it did on the field in the past,” she added.

As for missing her time in hockey, Antoniska noted that she graduated medical school in 2006, the same year as her retirement from the national team, and began a hospital residency that kept her very busy.

“I think that one of the keys to not feeling a longing (for the past) is that my era as an athlete was very beautiful and I enjoyed it a lot,” she explained.

Antoniska said that being a doctor has given her a new perspective on some of the events of her career in sports.

“I remember that in my time as a player losing a match made me sad and that I didn’t really value the silver medal at Sydney 2000 because we lost the final. Later, as a physician I understood that there are worse situations. That one has to appreciate the things one has and achieves: not everyone reaches an Olympic podium,” she said.

“What’s happening now in this time is similar because it makes us see things in another way and appreciate what we are or achieve,” Antoniska said, reflecting on the effects of the pandemic on people’s outlook. EFE


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