While we hail healthcare workers as heroes for their sacrifices during this crisis, this nurse wants us to remember that they too are human.
Paolo Miranda has been a nurse in the ICU department of Cremona hospital in Lombardy, Italy, for nine years. However, he's never seen the hospital this overwhelmed or his colleagues this exhausted and dejected, until the Coronavirus outbreak began running rampant across Northern Italy. The pandemic has pushed Italy's world-class health system to the breaking point as the death toll rises by the hundreds almost every day and the hospitals overflow with infected patients. But while we hail healthcare workers as heroes for their sacrifices during this crisis, Miranda wants to remind the world that they too are human.
Sharing a picture of himself in his protective hospital gear earlier this month, Miranda wrote on Facebook: My work and my greatest passion, photography. In this battle against this enemy of ours who apparently is much stronger than we initially thought, I am trying to capture as many moments as possible, hoping at the end of being able to put on a story through images that won't make us forget these bad moments and help us reflect for the future.
Ever since, Miranda has been sharing the heartbreaking and raw moments that occur within the hospital walls as the country's fight against COVID-19 rages on. Posting this heartwrenching image of his colleagues, he wrote: We are not heroes, we are professionals and above all people.
"The fear of contagion is also strong for us healthcare professionals. A liberating hug between colleagues after the negative result of the Coronavirus swab," Miranda captioned this moving photograph of two individuals sharing an embrace.
In another snap, Miranda photographed a colleague grabbing a few minutes of rest after a packed 12-hour night shift.
According to NBC News, the staggering number of infections in Northern Italy has overwhelmed hospitals in the wealthy region of Lombardy despite officials going to great lengths to prepare facilities in advance. As deaths from the virus spiked and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases swelled, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte issued a complete lockdown of the region on March 8—effectively quarantining about 16 million people.
A couple of days later, Conte followed China's lead and expanded the quarantine order to include the entire country. The famously bustling streets of Milan, Venice, and such went eerily silent and devoid of human life overnight. Meanwhile, Italians at the front lines of the pandemic had just begun the battle of their lives.
"It seems relaxed because everyone is staying inside and people are cooking and looking at old photos and doing work at home. But in the hospitals, it's like a war," said Francesco Longo, director of the Centre for Research on Health and Social Care Management at Bocconi University in Milan.
Dr. Lorenzo D'Antiga, director of the pediatric department at Hospital Papa Giovanni XXIII in Bergamo, revealed that the situation is made even worse by medical personnel getting infected in their line of duty. "Here, probably 20 to 30 percent of health care professionals got infected. In my department, I have 25 pediatricians, and currently 10 are off sick. This is the same in other departments, and it's a major challenge," he said, speaking of the state of affairs last week.
D'Antiga also explained that the limited resources are forcing doctors to make excruciating decisions about whom to treat and whom to send back home. However, he stated that it is standard practice for doctors to take into account a patient's age and condition before deciding whether they can be helped. "Outside of an epidemic, if a 90-year-old person comes in with severe pneumonia, we likely wouldn't admit the patient into intensive care and intubate them," he said. "We do have to select, unfortunately, but at the moment, at least we don't have to select among those who would have been treated in normal times."
"What we're seeing in Italy is what we're likely to start seeing in hospitals around the world in the coming weeks and months," warned Yascha Mounk, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "One of the characteristics of this disease is it has a very long incubation period. It takes a long time for it to start overburdening the health care system, but once it starts, the increase is very rapid."
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