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‘No end in sight’: Death, pain and anxiety in Italy’s hospitals

Names marked with an asterisk* have been changed to protect identities. Turin, Italy – It is 5am and Annalisa Baldi is about to start her shift in a COVID-19 ward at the Cremona hospital, southeast of Milan, in Lombardy. Wearing her usual uniform and a surgical mask, the 34-year-old nurse heads to the dressing area to prepare.…

‘No end in sight’: Death, pain and anxiety in Italy’s hospitals

Names marked with an asterisk* have been changed to protect identities.
Turin, Italy – It is 5am and Annalisa Baldi is about to start her shift in a COVID-19 ward at the Cremona hospital, southeast of Milan, in Lombardy.
Wearing her usual uniform and a surgical mask, the 34-year-old nurse heads to the dressing area to prepare.
She thoroughly washes her hands with special sanitiser and puts a protective suit on top of her clothing. She pulls on a pair of gloves.
“Until the end of my shift, these gloves become my skin,” Baldi told Al Jazeera. “I wash and disinfect them any time I can. I also add more layers of gloves throughout the day.”
Two masks – one for her own protection and the other to shield the patients, scuba-diving goggles and a cap complete her armour.
In her ward today, there are 66 people aged between 50 and 70. There are also some younger patients. 
“This virus doesn’t only affect elderly people with underlying conditions,” Baldi said, adding that the large hospital is mostly dedicated to the coronavirus emergency.
At 5:30am, medical personnel bustle about the wards.
Nurses draw blood, check patients’ oxygen levels and deliver medicine, as doctors start first rounds of inspections. Intensive care specialists arrange consultations and X-ray tests proceed at pace.
To avert contagion, direct contact with patients is avoided where possible.
“One needs to do as much as one can in one go, in their rooms,” Baldi says. “This includes helping patients drink. This might sound a small detail, but when patients wear fixed continuous positive airway pressure [CPAP] devices, spanning helmets and full-face masks, getting a chance to drink is essential.”

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