Faith on the Front Lines of Coronavirus

March 30, 2020 • Italy
Our team is working around the clock to care for patients suffering from COVID-19.

Samaritan’s Purse provides physical care and spiritual hope at our respiratory care unit in Italy.

Emergency Medicine

UPDATE: A more recent story from Italy has published. See “Hands of Comfort, Care Reach Out During Pandemic.”

Twenty seconds. A lot can be accomplished in 20 seconds.

As Samaritan’s Purse medical staff repeatedly wash their hands at our field hospital in Italy, they’ve also dedicated that 20 seconds to intentionally praying for each of the dozens of people who are currently receiving treatment there.

“Jesus is the only one who can help us right now,” said physician’s assistant Stephanie Morales. “We’ve got a situation where we’ve got a virus that cannot be treated by antibiotics.”

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The total number of Italians reported infected with COVID-19, or coronavirus, has risen past 100,000 and the country’s death toll from this disease—over 13,000—stands as the highest of any nation in the world. Hundreds are dying daily.

The worst affected area is northern Italy, in the Lombardy region, where we’ve set up our respiratory care unit at the local hospital in the city of Cremona. The hospital has been inundated with patients—quickly overrunning their eight-bed ICU by 400 percent. Samaritan’s Purse is partnering with the hospital to relieve some of the patient care. Our mobile medical unit offers 68 beds, with 10 for intensive care.

“We’re treating the patients the same way as over at the hospital, but we’re adding prayer and we’re adding Jesus and we’re praying for our patients,” Stephanie said. “They’re so wanting prayer.”

  • Doctors read the lung X-ray of an ICU patient.
    Doctors read the lung X-ray of an ICU patient.

As patients receive critical care from our doctors and nurses, their countenance begins to change and a glimmer of hope and comfort emerges.

“Yesterday, a patient came by ambulance and she was actually able to walk, but she was very sick. She was very scared because she knows—everyone knows—what this disease does,” said nurse Kelly Sites.

Within hours of spending time in the women’s ward, the patient was able to smile and felt some relief for the first time in weeks. “She was smiling for the first time in a long time and she said, ‘thank you so much.’ Yesterday she was very nervous but today she feels loved and cared for,” Kelly said.

Finding Family During Crisis

Samaritan’s Purse doctors and nurses become the closest thing to family that these patients have as they are not allowed visitors due to the risk of contamination. “When you’re in the hospital, you need the support of your family, and it encourages you and helps you heal to have them near you. But with this disease, we can’t allow that,” Kelly said.

In the same way, many of our staff have left friends and family in the United States—a country increasingly impacted by the disease we are fighting in Italy. They feel their absence while worrying for their safety.

A nurse has several Bible verses written on tape on her personal protective equipment.

A nurse has several Bible verses written on tape on her personal protective equipment.

“In my 10-year career, this is the first time we are leaving a disaster to come to a disaster,” Kelly said. A sense of care and love that comes from one’s own family has developed between the patients and our staff as they both face the sacrifice of separation. “One foot’s home and one foot’s here.”

Samaritan’s Purse team members pray that these patients walk out of our respiratory care unit healed by God’s hand and are able to go forth as a living testimony to what He is doing through our teams in Italy.

“Getting to pray with them, I’ve seen a lot of people cry and be so grateful just to have someone pray,” Stephanie said. “We have confidence that Jesus is bigger than this so I’m excited to see what the results are—healing people when medicine wasn’t able to.”

Please continue to pray for these patients, the health and safety of our team members, and for people in Italy and around the world impacted by coronavirus.

This article was originally published on March 23 and was updated through March 30.

We began today receiving patients at the respiratory care unit.
Emergency Medicine Your gift will enable Samaritan’s Purse to provide life-saving medical care (including doctors, nurses, respirators, and other essential equipment) to hurting and vulnerable communities. We respond in the wake of natural and manmade disasters, as well as during outbreaks of infectious diseases. We also offer public health outreaches to prevent the spread of life-threatening illnesses. Most important, our teams bring the Gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who are suffering and afraid.

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