Turin, 9 May 2020. «I would like to thank Cuban doctors and nurses in a special way for the courage they have had in leaving their families and leaving for months in the midst of a pandemic. You are a formidable team ». Signed: Ramona. Lucia’s letter however has no date. She too uses the language of solemn occasions, but then with the somewhat uncertain trait she draws three hearts next to her name: «I, the undersigned, would like to say that in all my life I have never found such smart people. If we are healed it is all thanks to the love that is within each of you ».
Giuseppa, Ramona and Lucia have long since left the red zone of the Ogr, the former industrial cathedral transformed in a few hours from a concert hall into an emergency hospital to welcome coronavirus patients. To witness the passage of these women and many other people returned to life thanks to the work of the Cuban brigade Henry Reeve together with the Italian staff, there remains a white ribbon hanging on the tree installed in front of the Officine entrance and those words imbued with gratitude and gratitude. The many letters of the patients include the name of Dr. Abel Tobias Suarez Olivares, who in the peak of the emergency supervised more than thirty patients alone.
Maria Luisa P. apologizes because “no” thank you “will do enough honor to her great humanity and professionalism”. He, who at 42 is on his third international mission after facing the cholera epidemics in Guatemala and Mozambique, minimizes. «It is simply our way of working, the patient is first of all a person who must be observed and listened to. Drugs and technologies are important, but only later. ”
It is confidence in the therapeutic value of empathy that has prompted Dr. Suarez to find a moment, between his grueling shifts, to make a patient’s birthday special. “I sang Las Mañanitas for you, a well-known bolero in South America. She was happy, excited. Since then, however, all the patients have asked me to sing for them every morning ». Even now that the worst seems to be behind us, that the tension has eased and the closing credits are approaching, it is impossible not to perceive the energy and the spirit of sharing that binds the many souls of the Covid delle Ogr hospital. Dr. Alessandro Martini, an internist at Molinette who joined the 38 health workers of the Cuban team, explains it this way: «This is what happens when you put the patient and his psycho-physical well-being in front of everything, overcoming the ward logic and the blind reliance on technology. It was the most exciting experience of my career and I am sure that the newly graduated doctors who have been able to work side by side with the team will be grateful for life for having had this opportunity ».
Physiotherapist Carla Morocco barely holds back her tears: “Here the utopia of health care attentive to the person at 360 degrees has become reality”. The social health workers Miriam and Natascia have the spark in their eyes of those who have experienced something great. «We were struck by the respect for all professional skills, the commitment to alleviate the bewilderment of those who found themselves facing the disease among these pavilions from which not even a ray of light transpires. And then we were amazed at the obsessive attention in following all the safety procedures ».
The result is that nobody, among the health workers and cultural mediators led by Michele Curto of the exchange agency with Cuba (Aicec), has contracted the virus. It is the great pride of the epidemiologist René Aveleira Cutiño, one of the deans of the brigade. Every day he supervised the dressing operations at the entrance of the department. “A little imprudence would have been enough, it was what we feared most and we absolutely wanted to avoid.” The only regret, brigade chief Julio Guerra Izquierdo explains, “was having lost a patient due to serious complications”.
The first time in Europe
But the white ribbons flying on the tree of life are 175 and now for the Cuban team there are only words of esteem and gratitude. “We are the ones who thank the institutions and the patients for trusting us and allowing us to help them,” says pulmonologist Miguel Acebo Mejias, another of the names that recur most often in the letters of the healed. Yet it was far from simple. The Henry Reeve brigade landed in Caselle with a flight organized by Lavazza and Specchio dei Tempi on a surreal Easter Monday, with deserted cities and meadows, grills for the barbecues off, the whole of Italy confined within the walls of the house. “We were on our first mission in Europe, we felt a lot of pressure on us and we had in our eyes the terrible images of the column of coffins carried by army chariots,” says the chief brigade again. “We will stay as long as you need us,” he had guaranteed.
Three months later the mission ends and Cubans are preparing to return to Havana. With faces still marked by overalls, helmets and masks and shoulders loaded with an immense baggage of humanity.