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Italian nurses share selfies of bruised faces after 13-hour shifts

While the images offer a grim reminder of the struggles nurses face in a pandemic, these Italian nurses also offer hope.
Facebook/Martina Benedetti/Nicola Sgarbi
/ Source: TODAY

As Italy faces one of the largest outbreaks of coronavirus, Italian nurses are taking to social media to share what it's really like trying to save lives during the global pandemic.

Selfies featuring their exhausted and bruised faces have gone viral on social media. These injuries come from them wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) day after day, hour after hour. Yet, they also share messages of hope — and a warning for people to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Nicola Sgarbi, a nurse in Italy, wrote about his experience on Facebook. His post was written in Italian and was shared 74,000 times. Here is a rough translation of his message:

“I don’t love selfies. Yesterday, though, I took this photo. After 13 hours in the ICU after taking off all my protective devices. I don't feel like a hero ... I am a normal person, who loves his job and who, now more than ever, is proud and proud to do it by giving all himself on the forefront lines together with other wonderful people (doctors, nurses, oss, technicians, cleaners)."

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Sgarbi and other nurses are raising awareness about the experiences of health care workers helping to treat patients with COVID-19. Many countries, including the U.S., face critical shortages of masks and other PPE devices. While Sgarbi and others paint a picture of a dire future, he also offers hope.

“It will also pass thanks to you and your hard work and sacrifices,” he wrote. “It will pass if we are united … don’t give up.”

Martina Benedetti is an intensive care nurse in Tuscany. She shared a picture of her bruises on social media and the image quickly went viral. The Facebook post describes the frenetic pace she and her colleagues keep every day as they treat patients with COVID-19.

“Drops of sweat falling from your face, a face melting under the … mask, plastic glasses, visor, cap, wrapped in a waterproof coat, maybe two sizes (too big),” the translation of her post reads. It has been shared 56,000 times. She continued: “‘The patient must be intubated’ … ‘Is desaturating’ … ‘Is hypotensive’ … Run, keep sweating … Prepare the drug with two pairs of gloves that limit your habit movements of your hands."

Like so many others, Benedetti struggles not to touch her face, but she knows that doing it protects the health and safety of herself and her patients.

“You must constantly repeat to yourself that you can’t touch your head if your hair elastic hurts, if your nose itches,” the translation of her message reads. “(You) finish your work.”

Benedetti also shared a warning to those who don’t think they need to stay home because they won’t get sick. She said the coronavirus is “not like this” and if they continue going out, they endanger other people, the people she’s working long shifts to help.

“To the question, ‘Why am I going to work?’ I answer that morally. I do it for all the people who have become side effects of other people’s irresponsibility and obligation because our health care system can’t help us right now,” she wrote.

While Benedetti is frustrated by how COVID-19 stressed the Italian health care system, she explains why she keeps returning.

“You look for the strength you have inside,” she said. “I thank those who in these difficult days (reached out) even with a simple message.”

Already Americans are trying show support for health care employees in the U.S. with #Solidarityat8, where people open their doors and bang on pots and pans in gratitude.

“My husband and I went on our front porch to clap and cheer health care professionals, first responders, scientists and truck drivers” one Twitter user shared. “Thank you to them and many more ‘helpers.’”