Lurdes Alves - the soul of places
She was one of the people who, as soon as she saw the news of the fire, immediately called Isabel Aguiar, the Head of the Faculty Services, asking if what she was seeing on television was true.
Her world-class auditorium was on fire and, with it, a past of 25 years of dedication that would only be retained in memory and photographic records from then on.
Today, at almost 70 years of age and born close to Cartaxo, she came to live in Lisbon at 17, with her uncle who was Marcelo Caetano's driver. She lived there for more than 40 years.
Lurdes Alves joined the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon on December 2nd; she was 35 then. She got in thanks to the help of her parents' friend, Mr. David, the Rectory treasurer. She started as a cleaning lady, but stayed in that position for only a year. Her care in dealing with others and her keen sense of responsibility soon made her stand out from the crowd, leading her to take up a new position, managing the Aula Magna's daily routines.
On days when there were formal sittings and exams, she arrived between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. to heat up the room in advance; according to the Professor, she knew whether or not she had to turn up the heaters to get the right temperature. She could deal with everyone, from either inside or outside the institution, and she was always able to find the best solution to ensure the necessary technical means. She made sure everything was technically ready, with microphones and projectors in place.
We meet in the new Aula Magna, she is impeccably dressed and perfumed and her hair is disciplined, it's not every day that we return to the home we miss. Sitting in the middle of the front row, she points her finger at one of the corners of the room and says that "it was precisely from that corner that she controlled any setbacks". She followed the protocol to the letter and, on formal days, she showed up with the same solemnity, in dark clothes, and on clinical session days she wore a gown. In PhD exams, if the applicant didn't know when to stand up, Lurdes would light a pointer on the ground and, discreetly, gave a cue to the next step.
She tells us that some exams marked her to this day and that it was not for lack of knowledge, but due to her personality, that "Professor Carmo (Fonseca) wore pants for her PhD exam and that was unusual, but when she got here she already had a very good reputation, everyone knew that she was going to ace the exams". "Then, there was another exam that marked me a lot, because they flunked the applicant; it was the only time I ever saw anyone fail and it was hard for me".
In her time there were already live broadcasts from the operating room to the auditorium, which she watched together with the students. While at first she left the hospital and everything smelled like ether, she says that later on she got so much callus that she even watched the surgeries, although "she did skip lunch on those days".
She witnessed two renovations, the first version with olive green chairs, the second one with the red chairs, and now a return to green, this time with a lime shade. She likes the room as it is now, because like a house that needs to undergo changes, it also needed to change "because when one changes, it's for the better".
She speaks with the same amount of respect and affection about the Professors that she sees almost like her family. Fernando Pádua, Carlos Ribeiro, Gonçalves Ferreira are the ones she mentions off the top of her head. She says that working in a Faculty located inside a Hospital was like a blessing to her, because when some of her closer relatives were affected by serious health problems and she was affected by some minor ones, she always had the right doctor to assist her.
She was only 44 years old when she lost her first husband; from this marriage she has a son and a granddaughter. Later, she fell in love again with a colleague of hers from the Faculty, her current partner, Paulo.
It was her spirit of mission to take care of others that made her leave the Faculty of Medicine and her beloved Aula Magna to take care of her sick mother and her catering business. She regrets the fact that she had to leave the place where she worked and lived part of her life, but she needed to take care of her own things. Nowadays, she's carefully caring for an 80-year-old cousin, takes him to the doctor and to his exams. In fact, she says that "it doesn't matter whether it's family or a stranger", because you have to help those in need. She says that "God helps her live her life" and that she is lucky to have what she has. An independent woman, she gets in her car and comes to Lisbon alone, not failing to attend the inauguration of the new Aula Magna and the invitation for an interview.
Even today, she still misses working with the Professors with whom she says she has learned a lot, even to gain a clinical insight into things. "When I arrived at the hospital with my mother, I already knew she was having a stroke; the doctor only confirmed it later, after having initially denied it. As Prof. Pádua used to say, the only thing I was lacking was the diploma".
On a regular working day, she slipped down the Hospital stairs and broke her arm. Some Orthopaedists from the Hospital quickly went to the E.R. to help Lurdes and put her bone back in place. Concerned with an Orthopaedics Congress that was being held at the Aula Magna and with her arm in plaster, they said that Lurdes could be there to provide assistance, but only giving instructions, while the doctors took care of the audio-visual equipment.
We leave that which has been her room forever. Lurdes leaves it as if she were coming back tomorrow. And I'm sure that the room will always be a part of her.
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