Born in La Coruña (in the north-west of Spain), she calls herself Saturnina Gallardo, she has worked all over her country and has around 150,000 followers on social media sites. Until not long ago, this was almost all we knew about “the nurse who’s had enough”, author of La vida es suero (Life Is Saline), the best-selling book on Amazon.es for some of 2014. But what else is there to know about this character, as popular as it is enigmatic?
“I even received pictures from followers in Canada and Colombia posing with Life Is Saline. The character of Enfermera Saturada unites us all, and through Amazon I could help her make the leap from the net to the printed page.”
The medical adventures of the best-known nurse in Spain started as soon as she came into the world. “My mother went into labour during a shift handover and no-one responded to the bell in time, so it was lucky I was born at all,” she explains. “I owe my name to my grandfather, the joker in the family, who quipped when I took some time to arrive: ‘This baby must be coming from as far away as Saturn.’ Her colleagues call her Satu. Hence the name “Enfermera Saturada” that translates in English as “The nurse who’s had enough”.
Despite her excellent academic record, Satu is still searching for professional stability. “I studied a lot, got good grades and went to university. I was told that if I did all that, then I would become a respectable woman: I would have a permanent job, a house, holidays in Benidorm with a family. It was all a lie. I did everything I was told and now that I’m in my thirties, all I have is a long list of ex-boyfriends and a Seat Ibiza. I live in a rented mezzanine flat and do day shifts at a hospital: on a good day, they call me in and I go to work and earn my salary; but no call, no money.
“The nurse who’s had enough” conquers the net
So Satu decided to take the big leap on to social media sites at the beginning of 2012, starting with a Twitter account (@EnfrmraSaturada) with the aim of sharing “the daily routine of a Spanish nurse trying to make a career within the healthcare system, from a humorous point of view.” After several trending topics and thousands of followers, Satu saw the light: “140 characters were not sufficient, so I decided to start a blog. The book was a step further, and a project I had been dreaming of for some time.”
Between shifts and blood-pressure measurements, Satu takes advantage of her few spare moments during the working day to gather inspiration: “I’ve taken to jotting down in a notebook all the ideas that come to mind as I pace around the hospital, so after my shift I can go home and start writing.”
Almost a year later, Life Is Saline was ready. “I tried to contact several publishing houses, but most didn’t answer; some said the book didn’t quite fit their editorial line, others argued it wouldn’t find an audience... And then a friend told me about Amazon’s platform CreateSpace, an independent publishing service available to everyone, and I saw my chance.”
From the net to the printed page
Satu edited the book herself, designed the cover and even chose the colour of the paper: “The day I received the first draft, I smelled it, I felt every page and I called all my family. Then I took a photo to share the moment with my followers and their reactions were amazing: ‘When and where can I buy it?’, ‘I want one for my Secret Santa’, ‘I’m ordering three copies’… The greatest thing about Amazon is that my book can reach followers across the world, many of them colleagues of mine who had to go abroad to find work. I even received pictures from followers in Canada and Colombia posing with Life Is Saline. The character of Enfermera Saturada (“the nurse who’s had enough”) unites us all, and through Amazon I could help her make the leap from the net to the printed page.”
Satu also used KDP, Kindle’s direct self-publishing service, in order to make her book available to readers in digital format. In December 2013, Life Is Saline entered the Spanish Kindle Store’s list of best-selling books at number one.
Meanwhile, the phenomenon of the nurse who’s had enough seems to be in good health: not only are sales and followers increasing non-stop, but also, in response to popular pressure, the mysterious writer who hides behind the character has just been unveiled: the answer is young male nurse Héctor Castiñera. “Most people thought that there was a female nurse behind Satu, so they were surprised when they learnt that it is actually me – a man. But in spite of the initial surprise, people have taken it very well and still like the character.” So much so that Héctor and his alter ego signed with publishing house Plaza & Janés in September 2014, La vida es suero is in its seventh edition and Satu will soon publish her new book, El tiempo entre suturas (The Time Between Sutures).