2020 will forever remain in the collective memory as the tragic year of Covid-19 pandemic.
For those who died for the disease, only remains the sorrow of friends, of familiars who were not there for a last farewell, of doctors, who tried with science and heart to save them.
Those who, like me, survived, carry within, besides psycho-physical after-effects of varying gravity, the memory of weeks and months of illness, spent in suspended animation, in a limbo of confused existence, nuanced in colours, sounds, flavours, often without a proper collocation in time and space.
During the flashes of lucidity of the first days, I remember having made the promise of describing, after recovering, sensations and nightmares, fears and dreams.
At the time, I had no fear that, in my case, the disease could possibly have a fatal outcome.
However, after witnessing so many gurneys leaving the ward, with a blanket draped over yet another unfortunate, I became acutely aware that this fate might befall on me too, that I would be unable to go back to my family, to my projects, to my life.
This thought convinced me to put aside literary intents, unrealistic at most, focusing my perspective on the “here and now”. I don't think it was the outcome of a rational process, more likely an instinctive retreat behind the barricades, trying to escape an implacable foe by minimising my footprint.
The rational explanation I give myself now, after the crisis, confirms a substantial recovery of my analytic faculties, a fortunate nature's endowment. On the other end, it has become an incentive to trying to fix on paper some of the many experiences I lived during several long weeks in Intensive Care, in Post Intensive and Rehabilitation, linked to vital support lines and to more than vital Professionals, who catered with all they could to my needs.
These few pages serve two purposes.
The first is to provide to the Clinicians, who took care of me and are still following my recovery, a first-hand description of my near death experience, and to justify some of my “bizarre” words and behaviours of that period, trying to dissolve at least some of the many therapeutic doubts of this pandemic with “clinical” data.
The second is to reciprocate, at least in part, the love of all who sustained and supported me, primarily my family, friends and fellow rescuers.
Background and developments
I just turned 69, have a wonderful family with my wife, children and grandchildren. I am (was) a retired professional, active as a social volunteer, in good physical and mental health, with the presumption of still having a lot to do, before quitting for good.
During a transport by ambulance on 19th February 2020, I got the SARS-CoV-2 infection from a cancer terminally ill patient, who died few days later. I developed the first symptoms on the 23rd: high fever, saturation in constant decrease, asthenia, articular pain.
I was hospitalized at the Spedali Civili in Brescia, with alleged COVID, on Friday the 28th, and the infection was soon confirmed.
After several days in a segregation ward, I was relocated to an Intensive-Care (IC) unit (05/03), due to deteriorating symptoms.
From there to another ward (Endocrinal-Metabolic), and again to Pneumology (11/03), where I received respiratory support via CPAP, with no relief.
On 12/03, I was therefore brought back to IC, where I remained for 35 days, most of which in sedation, with tracheotomy, pronation and heavy pharmacological therapy (Cortisone, Chlorochina and others), fed by a nasal-gastric tube.
On April the 17th, I was taken back to a medical ward, soon to enter a new ordeal, due to several bacterial infections, which had easy life against a debilitated immune system, finding new points of entry, through the many intravenous accesses, applied for drugs, water and food supply.
After few weeks of “peeking over the brink”, I was unable to swallow, to talk, to walk, in addition of having lost most of the muscles, due to forced inactivity. I was still being fed through a nasal-gastric tube, with the prospect of having a direct gastro-feeding implant for months.
By the middle of May, with the assistance of a Speech Therapist, I was gradually able to recover the capacity of swallowing: by then, I had lost about 20% of my weight (from 75 to 58 kg), was unable to stand, even with help.
For long weeks, I was heard practicing phonetic and muscular rehabilitation, slowly recovering some mobility and feeding autonomy.
On June the 11th, I was finally discharged from Spedali Civili and sent to Hospice Domus Salutis, for neuro-motoric rehabilitation.
After 3 weeks, when I was finally sent home, I had gained some weight (60 kg) and mobility, using foot braces.