Dr. Daniele Macchini, a doctor treating COVID-19 patients in a hospital located in the epicenter of Northern Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, has detailed the distressing conditions he’s witnessing and his deep concern about the spread of the virus— likening it to a “tsunami that has swept us all.”
In a now-viral Facebook post, Macchini sought to convey the situation in Bergamo, a city near Milan in northern Italy. He likened the outbreak to a “war” and a “tsunami that has overwhelmed us.” The 16 million people in the northern region of the country were the first to be locked down on Sunday before a nationwide lockdown on the country’s 60 million residents was enforced Tuesday in an effort to slow the spread.
“After much thought about whether and what to write about what is happening to us, I felt that silence was not responsible,” Macchini wrote in his post, as translated by Dr. Silvia Stringhini, an epidemiologist and researcher at the Geneva University’s Institute of Global Health.
“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 dangerousness of what is happening does not reach people I shudder,” he said.
In Bergamo, a city of about 122,000 some 30 miles northeast of Milan, 1,245 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in one of the country’s worst-affected areas.
“I myself watched with some amazement the reorganization of the entire hospital in the past week, when our current enemy was still in the shadows: the wards slowly ’emptied,’ elective activities were interrupted,” he continued in the chilling post, which was shared more than 29,000 times.
“All this rapid transformation brought an atmosphere of silence and surreal emptiness to the corridors of the hospital that we did not yet understand, waiting for a war that was yet to begin and that many (including me) were not so sure would ever come with such ferocity,” he said.
“I still remember my night call 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. Well, the situation now is dramatic to say the least,” Macchini added.
“The war has literally exploded and battles are uninterrupted day and night. But now that need for beds has arrived in all its drama. One after the other the departments that had been emptied fill 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.”
The doctor urged people not to describe Covid-19 as a bad case of the flu.
“Now, explain to me which flu virus causes such a rapid drama. … And while there are still people who boast of not being afraid by ignoring directions, protesting because their normal routine is ‘temporarily’ put in crisis, the epidemiological disaster is taking place,” he said.
“And there are no more surgeons, urologists, orthopedists, we are only doctors who suddenly become part of a single team to face this tsunami that has overwhelmed us.
“Cases are multiplying, we arrive at 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 E.R. is collapsing.”
Describing every available ventilator as “gold,” Macchini said the doctors and nurses working at his side are exhausted.
“I saw the tiredness on faces that didn’t know what it was despite the already exhausting workloads they had. I saw a solidarity of all of us who never failed to go to our internist 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, and the vital parameters of several patients at the same time reveal an already marked destiny.
“There are no more shifts, no more hours. Social life is suspended for us. We no longer see our families for fear of infecting them. Some of us have already become infected despite the protocols,” he said.
Macchini noted that some of his colleagues have become infected themselves and then infected their relatives who “are already struggling between life and death.”
“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,” he said.
“I finish by saying that I really don’t understand this war on panic. The only reason I see is mask shortages, but there’s no mask on sale anymore. We don’t have a lot of studies, but is panic really worse than neglect and carelessness during an epidemic of this sort?”
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