In this series of articles we meet, recognise and celebrate some of the many members of the hockey community – administrators, officials, players – who are at the frontline in the fight to contain and stop Corona Virus. Our ‘Excellent Eight’ featured in this series represent the thousands of people from the European hockey family putting themselves and their health on the line at this unprecedented time.
As we continue our series recognising and appreciating members of the hockey community who are involved in the frontline battle against Corona Virus, we meet a man who is working 24/7 to give help where it is needed most.
Pere Freixa is a well-known face in Spanish and European hockey. A member of Spanish giants Atlètic Terrassa Hockey Club since he was four years old, Pere played at all levels of the club game before turning to team management. He is currently team manager for the Atlètic Terrassa women’s first team.
Away from the hockey club, Pere works for Falck VL – a company providing fire, health and assistance services throughout Spain. Within the company, Pere is a technician for the emergency health service, a role that sees him driving the ambulances and attending to traffic accidents, heart attacks and any other emergencies that come his way.
All of which means that, for Pere and other health professionals like him, the past few weeks have been the most challenging and distressing of times. He gives an example of the daily horrors that he is currently faced with.
“During this COVID-19 situation, there are elderly people who are alone at home and have no help. If we need to transfer them to the hospital, there is the possibility of their family not being able to see them at all. Just a week ago I took a 75-year-old woman with suspected COVID-19 to the hospital. On the way, she told me that her children were working in Madrid. The conversation went straight to my heart. I gave her my phone number and told her she could contact me any time she wanted to. Tragically, two days later the lady died. These are hard times, but we have to keep going.”
Not only is the work heart-breaking at times, but the hours are long. Pere works a 24-hour shift. He then gets a three-day break to recuperate before going back into the fray. He also works as a volunteer fire-fighter, something he has done since 1993.
And although these are two tough roles, Pere wouldn’t change for the world: “I love my work. I like to help people, and at the end of each shift, I am strengthened by everything I do. Of course, there are difficult moments in this work, but there are also moments of gratitude. My work is fascinating.”
One of the most important things during these times is the support network surrounding the front-line workers. Pere has a strong family network but he also stays in regular contact with current and former players and club members from Atlètic Terrassa.
“We use WhatsApp and we have a very united group where we share comments on everything related to COVID-19,” says Pere. “That gives me great strength. The players from the Atletic de Terrassa teams give me a lot of support. I post things from my work on social media networks and the comments from people help me a lot.”
As the virus continues to claim lives in Spain, Pere says that at eight o’clock every night people across Catalonia go to their windows and applaud all the people who are working on the front line. He says that the public show of deep appreciation is a real morale booster for the doctors, nurses, cleaners and technicians that are working to halt the disease. In turn, he and other ambulance drivers switch on the lights and sirens on their vehicles to thank the local residents for their support.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Pere. He says that one of the most gratifying sights is when he sees someone that he rushed to the hospital safely returned home. But, he also issues this warning: “We must always prepare for the worst because this virus has many effects and causes many immune responses. Continue cleaning and disinfecting and ‘stay at home, we are working for you.
We spoke already to Peter Elders, Lori Di Guardo , Maxime Chéron , Hollie Pearne-Webb , Martin Häner, Kateřina Huptychová in the series… more to come! #ExcellentEight