Saturday, May 9, 2020

In memoriam Pedro Carvalho

Pedro was my wife Ana's kid brother. He was 57 years old when he died in Lisbon, early Saturday May 9th 2020 from COVID-19. He had been in the ICU at Santa Maria Hospital since early March after being infected in late February on a business trip to the North of Portugal. He succumbed to a catastrophic lung hemorrhage that his outstanding medical team was powerless to stop after so much effort trying everything that had been learned from other COVID-19 patients all over the world.

In a painful turn of fate, Pedro was the most prepared of us for disaster. He was a volunteer with the Santarém fire brigade from his early teens. He was also fascinated by radio from early on, and became a well-known radio amateur (call sign CT1DBS). He continued for the rest of his life his dual passions for helping others in danger, and for telecommunications: as a firefighter, as a scout, as a Portuguese Navy officer, as commander of Santarém's fire brigade, as the director of civil protection and firefighting for the Portuguese autonomous Açores region, and as an entrepreneur developing advanced emergency communication systems for Portugal.

Pedro never took the easy path. He repeatedly fought for the right actions against bureaucratic foot dragging, lack of accountability, and misplaced priorities. He pushed politicians to support better training for firefighters and other rescue personnel, for creating warning systems for populations in danger from Portugal's terrible forest fires, and for teaching children how to protect themselves from earthquakes in the very seismic Açores. For his leadership and rectitude, he lost some of the jobs he loved, but he earned the profound admiration and gratitude of the marines and firefighters he led.

It is maybe a consolation that Portugal's response to COVID-19 has in the main followed Pedro's principles of leadership, technical excellence, and attention to everyone and everything in the toughest situations. It was not enough to help him, who was one of the first two critical COVID-19 patients in Lisbon, but we feel his spirit of service and competence in how many others have been protected.

Pedro leaves behind Clara, his beloved wife of 25 years, his brother João and his sister Ana, several nieces and nephews, and a big hole in all the work he would still be doing in advancing emergency technology in Portugal. We miss him terribly.

COVID-19 is real, it can easily take the most vital, helpful, and productive among us.