Maxime Mbanda, the third Italian international line, was transformed into a paramedic during the coronavirus crisis. He transports sick patients and experiences the health emergency in Italy. His testimony, for AFP, makes one shiver.
From the third line on the field, to the front line facing the coronavirus, Italian rugby international Maxime Mbanda, a volunteer paramedic in Parma, is at the heart of the fight against the disease and testifies to a frightening reality. Last Saturday, Mbanda should have faced England in front of 60,000 people in Rome for a 21st selection for the Italian team, a match which like so many others has been postponed.
Instead, mask on the face and full protective suit, he went on a fourth day as an ambulance driver alongside the volunteers of the Yellow Cross of Parma, in Emilia-Romagna, one of the areas most affected by the coronavirus epidemic.
“When everything was canceled with rugby, I wondered how I could help, even without medical skills, he told AFP. I found the Yellow Cross, which had a transport service from medicines and food for the elderly. “
But after a day delivering masks, food and medical prescriptions, the physical strength of the 3rd line of the Zebre Rugby, the Parma club, was put to use where it was most useful, “on the front, at the heart of the problem “.
“I found myself transferring positive patients from one hospital in the region to another. I help with the stretcher or if there are patients to carry from a wheelchair. I also hold the oxygen”, he explains.
“If people saw what I see in hospitals, there would no longer be a line in front of the supermarkets”
And what he testifies to is an absolute emergency, where “95% of hospital structures are devoted to patients with coronavirus”. “If people saw what I see in hospitals, there would no longer be a line in front of the supermarkets. They would think about it two, three or four times before leaving their house, even to go for a run,” assures the 26 year old champion.
“What I see are people of all ages, on respirators, on oxygen, doctors and nurses on duty at 8 or 10 pm, who do not sleep a minute of the day and who are just trying to get some rest the next day, “he adds. A crisis situation? “I wish I could say that the situation here is at the limit. But I’m afraid I have to say that this is no longer the case.”
Without any medical experience, but supported by his companion and his surgeon father in Milan, “also on the front line”, the rugby player must also become a psychologist in contact with patients installed “in departments where the agenda, c ‘is death “.
“When you see their eyes … Even if they cannot speak, they communicate with the eyes and they tell you things that you cannot imagine, he says. They hear the alarms, the doctors and nurses running from one ward to another. The first person I got out of the hospital told me that he had arrived three hours ago when his next-door neighbor died. And during the night, two other women died in his room. He had never seen anyone die. “
So you have to behave with these patients “as if they were relatives or relatives”. “But the terrible thing is that each time you touch them, a simple caress in the ambulance to comfort them, you must immediately disinfect your hands”, regrets the n ° 8 of the Zebre.
“As long as I have strength, I will continue”
He is cautious but goes ahead. “I started eight days ago, with no break and with 12 or 13 hour rotations. But faced with what I see in the infectious disease rooms, I tell myself that I cannot be tired” , he says, confident that others could help.
“Fear is normal. But there are little things that can be done safely that would offer half an hour or an hour of rest to those on the front line. For them, an hour is is fundamental. ” Accustomed with the Italian team to hunt and tackle stronger opponents, Mbanda in any case, will not give up. “As long as I have strength, I will continue. I am there and I stay there. As long as there is an emergency, I stay there.”