"My day in the Coronavirus ward."

He is one of the many doctors in Lombardy who were asked to substitute their infected colleagues. Airtight overalls, double mask, glasses, gloves. Then hours treating the sick. And the discovery, within this drama, of what conquers fear and despair.

Last night, I received a phone call from the Medical Director with a request for help from a hospital in Lombardy located in a particularly critical area. I immediately gave my availability and at 8 o'clock on Saturday I walked through the doors of the hospital. It has always been easy for me to say yes because, in life, I have always learned that being available is an opportunity for growth at all levels.

On Friday evening, from a short phone call with a colleague, I understood what I should expect the next day. The majority of hospital doctors are at home in quarantine, or have even tested positive for Covid 19 and, therefore, have been isolated. Whole wards have been dismembered and the intensive care units are on the verge of collapse.

From the moment I arrived in the parking lot, I understood the situation: absolutely deserted, few cars and nobody around. At the entrance, an employee was handing out sanitizer and masks to the few people passing by. I arrived on the fifth floor, a medical ward that has been renamed Covid 19, with 40 hospitalized patients of different ages and sex, practically deemed positive or awaiting to be tested. I met two colleagues, with whom I then spent the whole day. We helped each other to dress properly (airtight overalls, double mask, glasses, gloves, etc.) and start making the rounds, taking arterial samples from all the patients, drawing up therapies, checking CT scans and so on. Some cases were very serious, others less so, but all scans showed more or less severe cases of interstitial pneumonia. Fear and anxiety in every face, and the question often posed was: "Doctor, am I dying?".

I was struck by the attitude of my colleagues: no moaning, no anguish, no fear, but an uncommon professionalism and humanity. For example, in communicating positivity to most people: "Do not worry, you are positive but we are here and we will do everything we can to cure you".

I was fascinated and infected by this positive position and I immediately found myself reassuring and supporting those fragile patients. From 8 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. without stopping, 40 patients were cared for and cured by the three of us who found ourselves in unimaginable harmony. Then a 20-minute break and then back immediately to recheck the hemograms and to calculate the risk of need to transfer patients to the intensive care unit, with further emergencies pouring in.

How can one remain so positive in the face of such devastation? A positive human position is only possible if you are human and professional with each other, if you support each other even in the drama of a day like this. And that is what the three of us have done today. Sharing work and humanity proper to the mission of our profession. Just like all the health workers who are working tirelessly and without fear in these days, what angels! Acting as the support and care for all the patients entrusted to us.

This evening, I was recounting my day to my wife and children and I was reminded of that passage in the Gospel where Jesus is asleep on the boat and the disciples are afraid. They wake him up and he calms the waters by saying to them, "Why are you afraid? I am with you, do not be afraid!". Today, I have experienced this in my work with my colleagues and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. Our unity of purpose has made it easier for our patients to deal with the anguish and fear of this virus, so microscopic but so devastating. I think that increasingly, we healthcare professionals have a responsibility to help these colleagues of ours who are in such difficulty. It has been a terrible day, but one that I have lived through intensely and that has deeply marked me and made me grow both humanly and professionally. I was sure that by saying yes to my Director I would have the chance to live an experience that I will never forget.
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