The following letter is from Doctor in Italy.
An Italian intensive care doctor has told of fighting on the front line against Covid-19 in Bergamo, Lombardy – hitting back at those who claim it is no worse than flu. Dr Daniele Macchini of Humanitas Gavazzeni hospital likened it to war.
He tells of the full horror in a bid to convince people the threat is real – and that everyone has their part to play to stop its spread.
"After much thought about whether and what to write about what is happening to us, I felt that silence was not responsible.
"I will therefore try to convey to people far from our reality what we are living in Bergamo in these days of Covid-19 pandemic. I understand the need not to create panic, but when the message of the danger of what is happening does not reach people I shudder.
"I saw with some amazement the reorganization of the entire hospital in the past week, when our enemy was still in the shadows: the wards slowly emptied, elective treatments were interrupted, intensive care was freed up to create as many beds as possible.
"All this brought a surreal emptiness to the corridors of the hospital, waiting for a war that was yet to begin and that many (including me) were not sure would ever come with such ferocity.
"I still remember a week ago when I was waiting for the results of a swab. When I think about it, my anxiety over one possible case seems almost ridiculous and unjustified, now that I’ve seen what’s happening. The situation now is dramatic to say the least.
"The war has exploded and battles are uninterrupted, day and night. But now that need for beds has arrived in all its drama. One after another the departments that had been emptied have filled up at an impressive pace.
"The boards with the names of the patients, of different colors depending on the operating unit, are now all red – and instead of surgery you see the diagnosis, which is always the damned same: bilateral interstitial pneumonia.
"Now, explain to me which flu virus causes such a rapid drama? While people boast of not being afraid, ignoring directions, protesting because their routine is temporarily upset, the epidemiological disaster is taking place.
"There are no more surgeons, urologists, orthopaedists – we are only doctors who have become part of a single team to face this tsunami that has overwhelmed us.
"Cases are multiplying, with a rate of 15-20 admissions per day – all for the same reason. The results of the swabs now come one after the other: positive, positive, positive. Suddenly the ER is collapsing. Reasons for admission are always the same: fever and breathing difficulties, fever and cough, respiratory failure.
"Radiology reports are always the same: bilateral interstitial pneumonia. All to be hospitalized.
"Some are already intubated go to intensive care. For others it’s too late. Ventilators are like gold dust: those in operating theater that have suspended non-urgent activity become intensive care places that did not exist before.
"The staff are exhausted. I saw tiredness on faces that didn’t know what tiredness was before, despite their already exhausting workloads. But there is solidarity, too, and we never failed to go to our colleagues to ask: “What can I do for you now?”
"Doctors who move beds and transfer patients, who administer therapies instead of nurses. Nurses with tears in their eyes because we can’t save everyone.
"There are no more shifts, no more hours. Social life is suspended. We no longer see our families for fear of infecting them. Some of us have already become infected despite the protocols.
"Some infected colleagues have infected relatives, some of whom are already fighting for their lives.
"So be patient – you can’t go to the theater, museums or the gym. Try to have pity on the myriad of old people you could exterminate.
"We try to make ourselves useful. You should, too. We influence the life and death of a few dozen people. You, many more. Please share this."
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