Rebecca del Re

The project: Intensive Care Unit of Apuane Hospital in Massa

Hi Rebecca, tell us about yourself.

I am 28 years old, I am from Florence but I live in Massa for work and for love. Here I work in the intensive care unit of the Apuan hospital. People call me friendly. I actually like being with people and I would call myself an optimist, I always try to look at the glass as half-full.

What made you decide to do your job?

From an early age I wanted to work in a hospital, where my parents still work. I grew up hearing a lot about healthcare and how to help others in difficult times, as what people go through during an illness. Being able to do something for these people was my highest aspiration. Since the first day I started working at the hospital I thought: “this is the job for me, I don’t want to do anything else”.

How has your work changed now?

In the current situation the work in intensive care, where I do work, is at its peak and our commitment can make all the difference. It’s also a very uncomfortable situation: working in suits similar to  —- is tiring, you sweat a lot. Protective masks cause furrows in our faces and with these impediments it is hard to perform, even the simplest manoeuvres. Shifts no longer exist and breaks are skipped, you know when you’re coming in but not when you’re going out.

Then there is a risk component, which is very high for us. We are already used to contagious diseases, but a disease with such a high level of contagion has never been seen before. In addition, we are afraid of infecting our loved ones coming back home everyday.

What does this experience bring to you, how do you live it?

The strangest thing is that in intensive care you are used to seeing many different situations. The idea of seeing so many people ill from the exact same illness makes you think that something really severe is going on. The saddest thing is that these patients are alone. Relatives who call you all the time and ask you, for example, “How are they? Are they relaxed?” and at the same time the patient is there intubated and sedated. What should you say to him? I feel like crying, just thinking about it. Unfortunately, so many people don’t get through it, and suddenly there is the famous phone call that the doctor makes to the patient’s loved ones; they can’t even come to see them, and it is exhausting for everyone.

What is the role of young people in your context?

Intensive care is now the front line where you don’t even have enough time to think, you have to run and do. Older colleagues are crucial and we youngsters count on them, because having experience and a wealth of knowledge is crucial in these moments. Like me, many other young people have joined the hospital recently, and what we have brought is a lot of motivation, passion, energy and desire to learn. Beside this, we also have an enormous desire to learn from our older colleagues.

How important is the cooperation between health workers?

Teamwork is fundamental. Without cooperation it would be hard to go through normal times, in times of crisis, with so many patients together in an open space, teamwork is essential. If we don’t trust each other and we don’t organize ourselves, it becomes impossible to work. And right now there is a huge collaboration between all the operators.

What is your superpower and what does it do?

You should ask this to the patients. In this situation I could tell you that it would be my maximum availability to help patients. You have to work overtime and do double shifts when needed, or you would have to take a patient out of the region if necessary, and so on. And if you are able to do it with a smile on your face even in the worst times, as I often do, you can give a little hope to those who are close to you at that moment.

What do you want to say to those who don’t know your work in detail?

Beyond the technical part, it’s a job where every single day we deal with tragedy, illness, and people who suffer. It is a heavy burden to carry home, regardless of one’s nature. Although a patient who comes out of it gives you the strength to go on, unfortunately, many do not. It is something we have to live with, as we try to do our best.

What can we do to help?

Follow what the Civil Defence is saying. I recommend #stayhome. Everyone has to be aware of the situation, which is urgent, and limit exits to the bare minimum. We all have to do our part, I’m trying with passion and love to do mine..