Raúl’s new lease of life

In 2021, Raúl’s world flipped upside down: he had surgery twice and spent seventeen days in a coma and twenty-five in therapy. He had to learn how to walk again. But at his daughter's 15th birthday party, he danced in celebration of his recovery. 

Last year, one morning when nothing seemed out of the ordinary, Raúl Mario Sánchez, IT Service Desk Coordinator at the Neuquén offices, suddenly collapsed. According to the medical diagnosis, this was prompted by insulin resistance. A swift response was necessary: “I had surgery because the condition was irreversible. The solution seemed to be a bariatric operation, as doctors were confident that my body, which had suddenly started to generate more insulin than sugar, would thus return to an even keel. At first, everything seemed to be going well, and I spent my first ten days back home on a liquid diet.

“On September 13, I was allowed to start eating semi-soft foods, and that’s when I started to feel bad. I had nausea, started vomiting and felt a lot of pain in my lower back. I went to the ER where they hooked me up to an IV with serum, and ordered some scans and other studies to see what was wrong: by this time, I was in immense pain. The laparoscopy showed that my intestine was twisted. They sent me straight into the OR for another operation.” For Raúl, this was the beginning of a parallel reality, one dimmed by extreme pain and confusion.

“I only remember fragments and some images from the time after the operation. I was in an induced coma for seventeen days, I was able to recognize bits of passing conversations, but in general, during those days, I was in another world. After that, I had to spend twenty days in intensive therapy recovering, followed by another three in intermediate therapy. I lost forty pounds of muscle mass. I had to learn how to walk all over again.”

The dance and all the emotionthe birthday girl and her father.

“I was reborn, as it were, on October 3. That’s when I regained consciousness and was able to start the recovery process. I took up exercise with a clear goal: the promise I’d made to my daughter that I’d dance a number with her at her 15th birthday party.” This is because Raúl has been a ballroom dancer for many years, nimbly executing the intricate steps of Latin dance, whether salsa, bachata, mambo, merengue, or chacha. He’s also a flamenco dancer at the Spanish Association of Neuquén. His daughter teaches Arab belly dancing, as an odalisque, and is also a national salsa champion, while his wife is an Arab dance teacher as well. “I began exercising every day, walking barefoot on the grass to reactivate my legs, and build muscle mass and strength. I had to do it. A promise is a promise."

“Tecpetrol was always there when I needed them; they were really good to me. For instance, they helped out with the social work side of things, as Human Resources took care of all the procedures and contacts and even helped my wife. My colleagues were terrific as well; in addition to their concern and the fact that they were always there for me, they covered for me during my absence. So, as soon as I was able, I started to reconnect with them, as much for them as for me.” Nobody was requiring him to do this, but it was clear that Raúl needed to get his life back, step by step: his work, family, and relationships, as well as dance.

“I missed dancing a lot. I was always thinking about it. That's why the first day that I was able to walk by myself was like something out of a movie." A film that began unexpectedly, one day out of the blue, that continued with pain, bewildered by the reality of it all, but ending on a high. On January 30 this year, Raúl took to the dance floor, guiding his daughter through the choreographed steps that he’d promised her for her birthday celebration. The tears, the applause and the emotion of that moment were a fitting end to the months of struggle, fear and pain, closing that chapter and telling him that the worst was over.

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