Corona Veterans - What’s left after the storm

118 more in collection Corona Veterans | What’s left after the storm

Unhappy the land that needs heroes” (cit.Berlot Brencht)

Northern Italy, 2020 

During the last long months, Italian healthcare workers’ lives have been disrupted by SARS-CoV-2, a Coronavirus that has killed thousands of people due to Severe and Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Since February 21st, 2020 - the day when the first infected patient was diagnosed in Italy - all General Practitioners, Nurses, Intensive Care Specialist, Healthcare Assistant, Volunteers, and Doctors of every specialty have been committed to taking the country out of this pandemic that has affected indistinctly healthy and ill people, young and old, ordinary citizens and health workers themselves.

But how has Coronavirus impacted all health care workers who have been working full time in those COVID-19 units? Their efforts caused a high emotional impact, a cost difficult to quantify, and often equally difficult to identify and evaluate.

In their working sphere, all these people have been deprived of their medical and ethical certainties, they have been thrown onto a battlefield to fight without appropriate weapons or strategy and several of them have fallen on that field. In the private sphere, they had to fight against the fear of finding themselves in danger and being the cause of the potential contagion of their beloved ones.

Each of them had a tiring and highly stressful experience.

The unknown and uncertainties of the disease, the emotional distance caused by the physical barrier of PPE when dealing with patients, the responsibility of taking quick and tough decisions, and the rising toll of deaths.

The unbearable heat inside the suit, the misty sight, the heavy breaths behind the masks.

The screamed but distorted voices, the communication at sight, the common fear in doctors and patients’ eyes during intubation.

The tears in the shower, the confinement from the beloved, the lack of a hug in times of need, the forced detachment for their salvation.

The recurring nightmares, the thought to colleagues, the anger against the system.

The contagion. The forced isolation at home.

The fear of dying.

The Impotence.


“…don’t call us heroes, we are not heroes…heroes get sacrificed, we cannot” (cit. Healthcare workers)



“The situation was catastrophic. I tried not to take anything back home, but I couldn't. I saw my little girl's eyes wide open with fear because she saw me cry!”

Lara Cavallieri, Healthcare Assistant


“You built up a wall and you will find a way to go on. You don't get used to death, but step by step you go on…and I'll do like Rossella O'Hara: I'll think about tomorrow“

Lara Cavallieri, Healthcare Assistant


“I had a routine: the perfume ... I am a perfume lover. I always said to everyone that I have to wear my ANTI-Corona and even wear body lotion, it gave me the idea that the virus slips away”

Lara Cavallieri, Health Assistant


If it happens again, I think I can't face it one more time. When a 47-year-old colleague dies, a sporty man, a friend of mine! You wonder: and now who's next? What if it's me? What if it's her?”

Nada Poloni, Nurse


"Between a shift and the next one, an avalanche of people arrived and they were all sick! Without even realizing it, in space of an 'Amen', we filled up the entire E.R.”

Nada Poloni, Nurse


"There was a specific case of a young patient affected by cognitive impairment. It was devastating for me. At that moment I would have to say my opinion but I was emotionally unstable and I would have cried. It was like if they were talking about my son”

Magda D’Astuto, I.C.U. Specialist


“I semi-isolated myself in my son's room. I still live with them but I avoided all close contacts, kisses, and hugs as much as possible […] I had a lot of crying, almost every nights, with my husband comforting me from the bottom of the bed" 

Magda D’Astuto, I.C.U. Specialist


“I was like a prisoner: isolated in the room and desperate. I was afraid of infecting everything, trying not to touch anything, and disinfecting everything with bleach. I had a positive test first, then negative, then positive again and in the end, I tested negative in early May, but then I was inside the tunnel. I didn't think such a thing would have happened to me at 57, I would never have thought about depression” 

Silvia Bertoletti, Healthcare Assistant


"In 1997 there was the civil war in Albania. I was 14, I went shopping with my father when we saw tanks entering the city and I burst into tears. That night, when everything broke out, I felt clearly the tension increase in the air and everything brought my memory back to that day with my father”

Anida Gjoka, I.C.U. Specialist


“I lived in a terrible impasse: I had to decide if I wanted to go to people's homes and take the risk. At the end of the story, we were catapulted into the carousel overnight, but I was aware that I was also a common woman, with a house and a 25-year-old son who lives with me”

Angiola Di Modugno, General Practitioner


"A trigger that moved me to take the risk was realizing that if I helped someone here I would lighten the work of my colleagues in the hospital”

Angiola Di Modugno, General Practitioner


“I was lost, it all seemed unreal to me. It looked like I was watching a movie scene. And then I was afraid, afraid of not being able to give everyone the same assistance as before Covid”

Grazia Grippa, Nurse


"To try to wash away from you, to scratch away sweat, pain, guilt, fear with a long shower in the locker room, […] To cross the hospital gate leaving behind 5 ambulances in the waiting line to unload patients and find yourself crying. We are not Corona resistant”

Rudi Bianchi, Nurse


“Now I wonder if I'm still able to handle the situation. I was a bit afraid of being alone during the night shift, but I have to overcome it because I want to continue doing my job well”

Grazia Grippa, Nurse


“…there are two things that I no longer want to hear: the sound of ambulances and strong breathing and coughing. And then, rather than call us heroes, why don't you wear those masks! How much it will cost you?!”

Annamaria Visinoni, Healthcare Assistant


“I realized I was very sick. I felt like I was breathing with my ears instead of breathing with the mouth. I woke up at night and I thought, thought, thought…I realized I was dangerous for my family. I love my home but I could no longer touch it. I spent 50 days in solitary confinement in my room, the diary helped me”

Annamaria Visinoni, Healthcare Assistant


“In those days I had the desire to escape, to see the sky, to breathe fresh air. I had to escape, it was necessary. I couldn't lock myself inside the house after working locked up inside the hospital”

Rudi Bianchi, Nurse


“We are doing the best we can, we are looking for the best solutions, even if sometimes dramatic [...] but it is when sleep arrives that you realize it, you begin to brood over and over [...] certainties or not, gratitude or not, it will come the day when those doors will be wide open and every nurse will have to deal with their own conscience”

Rudi Bianchi, Nurse


"The only moments I could unplug from the Corona, it’s when I played my flute and tried to follow my lessons […] A strange thing is happening to me: I don't remember faces of dead people. I have never been someone who remembers names but faces yes, always. Of these deaths, I remember no face, no one. I know who they were if they were from this town or not, but I don't remember their faces”

Concetta Orsini, Nurse


“I was afraid of getting sick. I took a shower right away, as soon as the shift was over, but at some point, I had a nightmare because of socks. I realized it was the only thing I didn't change when I leave the hospital” 

Francesca Ghetti, Resident


"Something really fixed in my mind it is the memory of the personal belongings of the dead patients piled up and suddenly hear a cell phone ringing from an envelope”

Giacomo Guidelli, Rheumatologist


“I wondered many times what I could do more than I haven't yet done. Definitely to be more human with patients and their relatives on the phone and sometimes even took their insults. Doing art therapy from remote with a friend of mine helped me to release the tension"

Elisa Schiffino, I.C.U. Specialist


"Despite I was aware that my job it’s to manage critically ill people, I felt helpless because it was difficult to do it in the great multitude”

Luca Adriani, I.C.U. Specialist


“I left the city crossing a military checkpoint and I went home having to go through another checkpoint. I had never had the chance to unplug"

Luca Adriani,I.C.U. Specialist


“The most difficult feeling was the attrition due to the choice. We are the figure who has to decide, or they call us or the chaplain. In those months every 10-15 minutes you had to make a decision and this frequency wears you out in the long run"

Luca Adriani, I.C.U. Specialist


"I often thought of these people who saw their family members suddenly disappear. It was important for me to manage the effect that the death argument had on me. I didn't want to become a victim "

Erika Pirini, Nurse Case Manager


"Now, due to the stress, I lose my hair in locks, as during the chemotherapy treatment […] Thinking about it now, I might be more afraid now than before. I feel like I'm weakening”

Erika Cordella, I.C.U. Specialist


"The biggest concern was that nothing happened to them. From when I opened my eyes in the morning until I went to bed in the night, I thought at the possibility for me to be a vehicle for the virus"

Davide Costagliola, Nurse


“I couldn't isolate, with the twins it wouldn't have been possible. When I got home I went straight to the shower, but it wasn't enough. All four of us got sick, even the girls"

Davide Costagliola, Nurse


“The corpses were immediately wrapped in sheets and doused with bleach . . . but the roommate was there and he understood exactly what was going on. How must he have felt seeing all this?"

Caren Conticello, ICU Specialist


“Every time I worked the night shift I told myself that we were all alive and I had to arrive in the morning all alive”

Caren Conticello, ICU Specialist


"I had some panic attacks due to DPI because I was out of air and I went into burnout due to the lack of breaks […] It all started with the transport of a patient with Alzheimer. I was at the supermarket buying a box of peas and the color of the box reminded me of the color of the patient's puppet. I didn't take it out of my head from there"

Luigi Filippo Gualtieri, E.M.T Volunteer


“I saw my children worried, their approach has changed towards me, especially the oldest. They are looking for more tenderness, they getting closer to me, they often tell me: mom be careful, mom don't die"

Pamela Barberini, Healthcare Assistant


"I have anxiety, I see it, my body shows it to me. I have trouble sleeping and breathlessness. Every time I get in the car to go to work I feel a weight on my breastbone. It sounds silly, but the only way I can stop this 'air hunger' is to make a big yawn. At that moment it seems my lungs are widening and enough air can enter to finish a whole breath. But anxiety remains for another hour and a half, then it passes”

Pamela Barberini, Healthcare Assistant


“I remember a patient who was having a phone call; when he saw me coming fully dressed he rushed to finish the call. I comforted him by saying that everything would have been fine […] This person died. It hurts a lot to lie”

Stefania Lippi, Nurse


"My husband also works as a nurse here in Lugo. On April 25th he gets infected and he was isolated for 41 days. To stay together, my daughter and I played cards with him every night. We have never been together for months. We have been suspended for three months”

Giulia Cicognani, Nurse


“At the end of February, I bought a pair of red canvas shoes. I never got to put them on, but I always thought those were my freedom shoes. I want to put them on only when I'm free, after the Covid-19, after Gianni's illness, after all this”

Giulia Cicognani, Nurse


"I had nightmares, yes, but not at the beginning, later. At first, you go and fight, then when you stop you realize what happened, you take the hit and panic attacks appear, which I have been missing for 5-6 years [...] I don't know what my life will be like in six months, I sail on sight. We will never go back as before, the 'after' will be new normality, different”

Valentina De Giorgis, Resident

The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Italy in a way nobody expected. Photojournalist Matteo Placucci collected testimonials from those who lived it in the first person: the healthcare workers. The photo-reportage was developed in northern Italy during summer 2020.

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Created by DooG Reporter

Italy 12 Dec 2020

Covid 19 Ita...