To relatives they repeated not to delude themselves. Because there was little hope. And maybe they wouldn’t “spend the night.” Now there are four survivors smiling at life. And they toast dinner with the “best bottle in the fridge”. Sitting around the restaurant table where they decided to meet again. To celebrate “the rebirth” from the coronavirus after going through the hunger for air. The lungs that become “two crumpled plastic bags”. Hospitalization. The coma. And the terror of not going home, “because so many have died next to us and when you see the sheet lifted next to yours, you think that next time it will be your turn”.
They do it first of all to thank the doctors and nurses – “white angels” they call them – who saved them first in Livorno, and then at the Versilia hospital, where they met and got up.
«We were afraid – they say – so much afraid. But not anymore. Because even a glass of water, after what we’ve been through, tastes different. Special. Imagine this raw seafood and this plate of spaghetti. Or a sunset. The anger? Not at all, they are a waste of time. Because time – it is the conclusion they reached seven months after resigning and returning to their respective lives – is the only real wealth we have in our life portfolio ».
Maurizio Frati, Andrea Gimignani, Gianluca Magozzi and Roberto Fortunato “In name and in fact,” joke the other three, they have different ages, histories and paths: the first restaurateur, the second accountant, the third pharmaceutical developer, the last retired former port.
On the mobile phone screen they show the photos – we are around mid-November – of when they woke up in the intensive care unit of the Livorno hospital after days and days spent in the balance, attached to the machines and to the hope of others, because they did they realized almost nothing. Alone and unconscious.
“We were swollen like balloons from the cortisone. But we were alive, even if we couldn’t even say it out loud. Because after the virus, at least as we got it, you go back to being a child who has to learn again to do it all over again: eat alone, walk, talk, lift weights. Even peeing and pooping without a diaper and catheter are achievements, ”they recall.
I still have the signs of the disease on me “sometimes I still get short of breath when I take the stairs, but nothing compared to the beginning, when I couldn’t even get up from the chair or speak,” says Roberto, 66 years old. “I have a leg that still doesn’t work as before,” adds Gianluca, 52.
But the most obvious sign of what they have been through, the mark of rebirth, is a scar at the base of the neck, under the throat. “It’s the wound that healed after the tracheotomy”, explains Maurizio, 57, owner of the restaurant where the four are sitting joking, like “comrades in a cubic military”, like a scene from “Amici My”, expanding his shirt. .
«I still have in my brain – he continues – the noise of the drill as they pierce my throat. It is a horrible thing. Feel the oxygen entering your body. The consequence is a sensation of cold, at the neck, which then extends throughout the body. But the worst thing is when they change the tank. At first you breathe but you don’t take air. And then you think you can’t do it. Yes, you think you won’t go home. ‘
CONTAGION AND RECOVERY
When they talk about the infection, which occurred to everyone at the end of October, they remember the first symptoms: fever “even at forty-one and a half”, cough, loss of taste and smell. The call to the family doctor. And the first treatments after the positive swab: tachipirina, aspirin, for some a few days of antibiotic. Everything useless. “The situation has precipitated.” The decreasing blood oxygenation and the call to 118.
«I was hospitalized on October 27 – Roberto remembers, who lost 38 kilos in a month and a half – don’t let me think about it. Imagine that I didn’t want to go to the hospital. Yet I had been breathing badly for days. My wife eventually called the ambulance. When they arrived they told me: “Either come with us or in two hours you are gone”. I remember later that they gave me oxygen. And when I got to the hospital they did the CT scan and took me straight to intensive care. I think they gave me up for dead. Then I have a void. I was intubated for sixteen days. It is a terrible feeling. Once I was no longer breathing, I had gone black. And I didn’t know how to tell because I didn’t have a bell or maybe I couldn’t find it. So to make me feel I took a bottle of water and threw it in the corridor. So they saved me ». The noises of the ward that have remained like an echo in everyone’s head are those of the oximeter beating on the iron of the bed “to call for help”, the sneezing of patients to expel the phlegm that formed due to bilateral pneumonia and the moans of those who suffers, like you, near you. Alongside them, on this journey, eyes, words and gratitude to those who have given them strength and hope emerge.
«When I woke up – recalls Gianluca – they treated me like a son. They told me that for two and a half minutes my heart actually stopped. I found myself in a green meadow and I could hear the bells. That’s why I would like to embrace all these wonderful people. Among them were Ulysses and Viola, two nurses I will not forget. The first every night came near my bed and me lethal the feet. Viola instead worked the night shift, I remember her eyes, her voice. The first evenings I couldn’t sleep, I thought of my wife and daughter, the dog and even fishing, my passion. Then she would come to the bed and stay there until I fell asleep. Do you know what you lose in those moments? Dignity. Yes, the dignity of a person, of an adult. Of man. Because at our age having to poop in the diaper is demeaning. Or find yourself naked like a worm and get washed, even in your private parts. Here, nurses and doctors, in addition to saving your life, try not to make you lose yourself. This is why at Christmas I sent a gift package to both the Livorno hospital and Versilia to repay me for what I received ».
What happens when the worst is over «and you see the descent», says Andrea, his wife and two daughters who were waiting for him. «They too have been infected – he says – but in a very light form. I often wonder how it was possible to catch the virus with that force. I have to be honest, I didn’t think it could happen to me. The best moment? When I got out of resuscitation and went to the Covid ward. I was still sick, but I knew the worst was behind me. Do you think that the first few days I could not even eat a chopped apple by myself. But I must say that none of us, even in the worst moments, have lost the irony. When a doctor asked me if I was allergic to something, I replied: “To misery”. My goal – he goes on – was to get home as soon as possible. At least to spend Christmas with my family. At Versilia the doctors do not tell you anything, obviously they are not unbalanced. So to do first, to get back on my feet, I did the exercises in the room, alone: I moved my legs, I did weights with physiological solution. The first time they gave me a 500 milliliter one and I couldn’t even lift it. So I got two for three hundred. A nurse also caught me and told me: “If they find you they will fire me …” ».
It’s time for dessert. Above it is written: “We have defeated him.” Those who do not believe us are told to be careful, to wear a mask and to get vaccinated. They take the sanitizer out of their pocket and tell the latest anecdote. “When you stubble, the doctor covers the wound on your throat. Then he asked me: “What is your name?”. I replied: Maurizio Frati and I cried with joy. I could hear my voice again. And I was alive ». –
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