Diego Maradona had been asleep for “two days” when Guillermo Coppola decided to call a doctor to assist you. He had reached that state after “an excess of everything” after the celebrations for the new millennium in Punta del Este. There were several frustrated attempts: the state of the patient who did not react and especially the dimension of the character generated fear in the professionals who had to go to the emergency: Who could risk Diego Maradona “dying” with all that that implied?
Jorge Romero he was 28 years old. It had been received a few days ago and it was her fourth day of work at a local parlor. He practiced his profession in a rural area, far from the center of the city: his choice, as a philosophy of life, was to be away from the city, the smog and the lights. But that January 2000 he had other plans.
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Two decades later, on November 25, 2020, Maradona died of heart failure and acute lung edema, connected to the crisis in Punta del Este in which Romero intervened. In the exclusive documentary by TN “The first death of Maradona”, the doctor recalled that experience and reflected on Diego and his environment.
“When he was already leaving the intensive care unit, I don’t know why, I had the need to stand in front of him and say:” I was the one who brought … I felt obliged to pass the message on to the most important recipient. importantly, the patient. Because… How many straightforward and simple truths have you told Maradona in your life? FewRomero said.
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“I learned about his figure after that incident, to size the environment and I conclude that this man received few simple and direct truths, and the few that he received he surely did not accept. Because you have to have the psychic apparatus to accept such harsh truths ”.
This is how the Punta del Este crisis was experienced, “the first death of Maradona”
The La Barra Polyclinic phone rang and Romero answered. It was Coppola, who told him that Diego slept two days ago. He had not yet determined what was happening or the magnitude of the mission for which he was summoned, but He left for the house where Maradona was: Route 10 km. 174, in front of the oil buoy.
The Citroen mehari 1976 model in which Romero came to assist Maradona, by those coincidences of life, it was called “La Tota”. It had been a gift from his dad so he could get to work and it was his first car. “I arrived slowly, much slower than I would have liked.” Romero recalls that “it was the name of Maradona’s mother in the customization of my first car.” The Mehari had a canvas roof and “you had to treat it with great respect because if not, it wouldn’t work.”
ROSEMARY. He arrived in his truck “La Tota” to attend to Maradona in Punta del Este.
When Romero arrived they told him that Maradona “felt bad”. They gave him no further information. In the place, among other people, were Guillermo Coppola, Carlos Ferro Viera and Pablo Cosentino. They would later be placed under the scrutiny of Justice. Was January 4, early 2000, and the consumption of alcohol and drugs had led Maradona to that state of non-reaction. They told Romero that Maradona had been sleeping for two days and that they were unable to wake him up. “I made the necessary diagnosis of coma,” he says.
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Romero’s visual memory helps to reconstruct the scene: the best soccer player of all time is in a coma sitting on a chair, in “a somewhat inhospitable place, a little house accessory to a nice house.” In the meantime, his lungs were filling with water rapidly: he was experiencing heart failure secondary to pulmonary edema: excess fluid in the lungs that made it difficult for him to breathe. Maradona was tachycardic and “had all the compensation mechanisms to the extreme,” reveals Romero.
They didn’t want to call an ambulance
Romero informed Coppola that Maradona was on the brink of death without having been in the place for 5 minutes yet. He demanded to call a specialized ambulance urgently, but his demand was not met. The closest health center, the Cantegril sanatorium, it was 23 kilometers away. Fortunately, Maradona was sitting up: “The pulmonary edema could increase his speed to a closer range if he was laid down.” It was almost a premonition of what would happen 20 years later in the house in the San Andrés de Tigre neighborhood. Diego’s heart was on edge. He was going through his first death.
For reasons that two decades later continue to generate controversy, Coppola decided not to call the ambulance and take Diego in his private car with Dr. Romero. In an attitude that the doctor still cannot understand, Coppola, flirtatious and vain, went to get ready to leave the place impeccable to the sanatorium. Romero believed that Maradona’s former manager made that decision to evade the press: “What is the problem with photographing reality? Why do we have to play the game that everything is always fine?
Romero, the doctor who attended Maradona in Punta del Este. Photo: TN.
The rate of progression of the acute lung edema deeply alarmed Romero. The despair of the young rural doctor grew with the passing of the minutes.
Romero had asked for an experienced doctor and an intubation set that he did not have, but his demands were ignored and ghosts began to appear: “I imagined the headlines from newspapers in Argentina: ‘Diego Armando Maradona dies at the hands of a young inexperienced doctor by omission of assistance, ‘”he recalls. He had evaluated the option of leaving, but if Maradona died it could be worse: “Race finished before starting, I said ‘mmm, maybe it doesn’t suit me,’” he says.
The vehicle that was carrying Maradona ran out of gasoline
Coppola was driving and Romero was in the back, keeping Maradona seated and supporting his lower jaw so that it did not block the airway, causing Diego to die on the way. “He had to be at 90 °, otherwise his death was certain, but not in 20 minutes, but in 5,” he says. In this context, Coppola warned that the car had no gasoline and stopped to load. “The fastest car in the house flew off and we were left with the truck that had no gasoline.” Diego was studying something that, a priori, seemed like a drug poisoning. The dialogue with Coppola, says Romero, was already more direct: “Look, sir, you have minutes to live.”
To avoid inconvenience, Romero, who had already assumed that things were going to be that way, recommended “going inside.” They took route 10 to the undulating bridge of La Barra in Maldonado. They continued towards the roundabout, advanced a kilometer and from there, they took the road that led to Camino Viejo. From there they went in the direction of the Punta del Este Airport, passed the Convention Center and skirted a long block with a cycling track. From there they went to Boulevard Artigas and from there, straight to Sanatorio Cantegril.
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Maradona did apneas: pauses in breathing between 5 and 6 seconds. He was practically dead. “There I was dying a little with Maradona. I was dying a little, “confesses Romero, who remembers the episode as” something very violent. You have to put yourself in the head of a young 28-year-old doctor who comes to a small town to be calm and this happens to him. It was everything that I didn’t want to happen to me, together ”.
Diego was still breathing, but his heart was beating insufficiently. He was laid down for the first time 20 meters from the intensive care area and, at that moment, he fibrillated: her heart had stopped pumping blood. Everything the fledgling and inexperienced Romero feared was happening. The life of Diego, who was fortunate enough that Romero answered Coppola’s call in the local room, was stopped for a few moments.
“Maradona, you almost died, they are not inventing anything”
The doctor who saved Maradona was able to speak with the patient once the star had recovered: “I had the need to stand in front of him and say ‘I’m the one who brought you, you almost died, eh, look what They are not inventing anything for you. You are alive by chance”. Without knowing him, without being a football fan, he took on the dimension of what he had done over time.
The Punta del Este episode opened a legal battle for the hidden plot behind Diego’s clinical picture: still today there are conflicting versions of what happened in that farm in the first days of the year and responsibilities. “I lost 15 days of a season 30 when I didn’t even have a roof,” laments Romero. Those who were there were prosecuted for damages and received financial fines of tens of thousands of dollars.
“It was a tough time, was a patient who would have preferred not to attendBut I guess idols have those things right? The events conditioned his life in an intolerable way at times: “In six years as a tenured professor assistant and four more as an interim professor assistant, every time a new resident came and someone told what they always told about me, they sat in the guard all and they just wanted to know that ”.
Romero isolated himself from the system and from the institutions. He chose silence and still fight to get rid of the association with Maradona, although in recent times he learned to accept and live with the idea of having saved the life of the most popular man of all time. Currently, he is an activist for different social causes and lives with his family a few meters from the seashore. Thanks to him, Maradona was able to live 20 more years.
Watch the documentary “The first death of Maradona”
Look here “The first death of Maradona”, the exclusive documentary of TN. Photo. TN