Floricua Of The Week: How A Latino Respiratory Therapist Protects Himself And Others

Adalberto Rivera Floricua Of The Week

Image via Adalberto Rivera

By Carlos Abreu

April 1, 2020

For Adalberto following protocol to avoid a coronavirus diagnosis is a social duty of every citizen.

After leaving work, Adalberto Rivera had to make a stop at a supermarket in St. Cloud, Florida. Before entering, aware of the risks of the coronavirus, the Floricua put on his mask and gloves and had his sanitizer ready. He was surprised when his precautions provoked laughter and ridicule from other Latino customers there.

“I want to protect myself and others. They were all Latinos and they were acting like nothing was happening. They looked at me and said ‘look how ridiculous’, ‘so exaggerated’, ‘what a charro.’ I was surprised by that mentality,” he said. “Latinos are very proud. They don’t want to show what is affecting them.”

For Adalberto, protecting himself from COVID-19 is far from being a joke. As a respiratory therapist at one of the most renowned pulmonology centers* in St. Cloud, he has seen first hand what the virus can do to your lungs. Every day he has to deal with very anxious—and often sick— patients. Most of them come in with a lot of questions and concerns about coronavirus.

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“What worries me the most about coronavirus is the young people who have it, who don’t know they have it, and continue to infect older people. They come to their house and infect their grandparents, their uncles, and those are the people who suffer the consequences. Young people are going to survive, maybe a small percentage won’t, but the damage in their lungs is irreversible,” he said categorically.

Adalberto was born in Aibonito, in the central part of the island. He had an interest in becoming a nurse early on, but while complying with his military service he was seriously injured in his legs and decided to take a different path. 

As a combat soldier, he learned order and discipline. He fought in the Iraq War. After 20 years in the Army, living in different countries and U.S. cities— like Washington and Virginia— Adalberto wanted to be closer to Puerto Rico. 

“One day I went on vacation to St. Cloud with my wife. I liked the area and decided to hire a real state agent. I moved two years ago, six or seven months before Hurricane Maria. At that time, there were almost no Puerto Ricans. Then the hurricane came and that was a disaster, they all came here and it became Puerto Rico,” he said in typical Boricua humor.

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Adalberto has to be very careful to protect his family. He has two girls— 3 and 18— and one has Down syndrome, which is considered a pre-existing condition because it compromises the immune system.

In addition to his work, he has a Facebook page, Eldivopr, dedicated to explaining health issues to the Latino community. The name of the page was inspired by an inside joke amongst his friends, but the topics he discusses are serious. He now has almost 1,000 people following his page.

“I was looking for a hobby. I have always felt the need to teach and help, it is something that fulfills me a lot. So that’s where the page came from. I offer guidance and make videos of different issues. For example, I give CPAP education for people with sleep apnea. I tell them about the machines and give them advice. People follow me and send me questions to my inbox. It is a good way to help.” 

This proud Floricua’s hope is that the Latino community takes coronavirus precautions seriously. He is adamant that it is the authorities’ responsibility to do more and keep people safe and inside their homes.

* The employer prefers to remain unnamed.

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