Marco Nicolo came to Canada to further his career and training as a radiologist, feeling that opportunities were scarce in his native Italy. When he first showed up to a Tribe Fitness Saturday run, the distance between the hem of our running shorts and our kneecaps revealed our different origins before we even made introductions. He returned home to Italy in 2016, there in time for the onset of COVID-19. Ravi Singh caught up with his friend.
RS: Where in Italy are you? Do you know how many patients came through your hospital compared to the rest of the country?
MN: I’m in Brescia, which is one hour from Milan, located in the region of Lombardy. Lombardy was the hardest hit for COVID. In my hospital, we had 900 cases come through.
[Note: Lombardy accounts for the highest proportion of COVID cases in Italy, with roughly 91,000 of the country’s 237,000 cases occurring in the region.]
RS: In the treatment process, what was your responsibility at the height of the pandemic?
MN: We did 80 to 100 portable chest x-rays per day, compared to 15 or 20 that we might do before the pandemic. Staff had to be doubled. We only had one tech before and now we work pairs. One was the “dirty technician” who handled the patient while equipped with PPE and the other was the “clean tech” who just touched the machine and set up the exam. That would help avoid cross-contamination.
RS: At the height of the pandemic, what did your typical day look like?
MN: During the week from Monday to Friday we had normal shifts of 8 hours, but for the weekends we had 12 hours during the day and night. Usually, our hospital has 13 ICU beds, but that more than doubled to 30. Starting from May 1st, every time we entered the hospital we had our temperatures checked. If we showed fever like temperatures, we were sent home.
RS: How long did you go without running? How did you take care of yourself at that time?
MN: Last run was on March 8th. Ran again on May 4th. I wasn’t allowed to go out unless it was work. We could be active but only within 200m of our houses.
RS: Has COVID changed how you feel about your job?
MN: No, because I chose this profession and vocation. I always believed in it and always will. I worked for this.
RS: What do you hope people will do differently in the case of a second wave?
MN: I have a colleague in the ER department who lost his father, mother, aunt, and uncle in less than one month. People experience that and use all the precautions and follow guidelines.
RS: What was your biggest fear while working in a hospital?
MN: I was especially afraid for my partner because we aren’t from the region we live in so our family is elsewhere. Because of the lockdown, she couldn’t go back to where her family was, so there was risk for her safety in me coming home every night.
RS: How was your first run after lockdown?
Full of freedom and liberty. It was like taking a part of myself back.