It seems safe to say that healthcare providers fighting COVID-19 on the frontline around the world are the real heroes of our time.
In Italy, as in many other countries, citizens have expressed messages of solidarity, gratitude and love toward medical workers. People clapping to show their appreciation for health workers during an evening-hour event has become a global movement.
A placard in support of Italy’s doctors reads, “Thank you for all you’re doing for us. You are our guardian angels.”
In Italy, many banners were seen hanging from balconies with messages of support. One hanging at the entrance of the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute reads, “Thank you for all the things you’re doing for us. You are our guardian angels.”
The director of the clinical and research of infectious disease department of the hospital, Dr Nicola Petrosillo said the support gives them strength and joy but shrugs off the term “heroes.”
“We are not heroes… we are professionals. This is our job; the real heroes in this tragedy are the poor older people that are alone, that are admitted in the hospital alone sick and sometimes die alone,” said Petrosillo.
But it’s no doubt, medical workers in Italy are facing challenging times. Early on, Italy faced a shortage of protective gear, and medical staff were putting themselves in danger. But Italian officials stress that this shortage has been dealt with.
A medical worker is getting himself ready for daily work in a hospital in Italy.
Now, according to Petrosillo, the biggest challenge is emotional exhaustion. He said it “represents a problem because people are taking care of patients more than 20 hours per day, staying in the hospital and in uncomfortable conditions, with personal protective equipment which is not comfortable as you can understand.”
Also, despite the effort to stay safe, even with personal protective equipment, it’s not always possible. According to the Italian National Institute of Health, close to 17,000 health care providers have contracted COVID-19, and over 120 doctors have reportedly died due to the virus, according to the Italian Federation of Medical Associations.
Italians show their support for medical workers with banners hanging from the balcony of their home.
Petrosillo said to protect their families and ease their mind, many medical workers are opting not to go home for fear of infecting family members. He said they are either staying in spare rooms at the hospital or in empty apartments and isolating themselves even though they desperately want to see their loved ones.
When asked about how he relaxes at the end of a long day, Petrosillo said he enjoys watching TV and listening to anything but COVID-19.