Coronavirus faces on the frontline: Healthcare workers reveal sores after long shifts

23 March 2020, 14:09

Healthcare workers have been sharing selfies showing indents and sores created by protective gear after long working hours
Healthcare workers have been sharing selfies showing indents and sores created by protective gear after long working hours. Picture: N/A
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

Healthcare workers at the front of the fight against coronavirus have revealed the physical impact that protective gear imposes on their faces after long shifts.

In selfies shared to social media, doctors, nurses and other staff around the world have pictured the red indents and sores created after wearing tight-fitting masks for hours on end.

"I feel broken," said London-based anaesthetic registrar Natalie Silvey, adding: "And we are only at the start."

"This is the face of someone who just spent nine hours in personal protective equipment moving critically ill Covid-19 patients around London."

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Nicola Sgarbi, a 35-year-old doctor from Italy, took a selfie after working 13 hours in an intensive care unit while wearing protective items, which had left deep red indents and sores on his nose and cheeks.

Working in Modena, one of the provinces worst-hit by Covid-19, he said: "I am not and I do not feel like a hero.

READ MORE: 'Fit and healthy' nurse in intensive care after contracting Covid-19

"I am a normal person, who loves his job and who, now more than ever, is proud by giving himself to the frontlines together with other wonderful people.

"That's why I don't care about the many hours at work, signs on, back pain, tiredness, sauteed meals, and much more."

He added: "This will all pass. It will also pass thanks to you and your hard work and sacrifices.

"It will all pass if we are united in one immense joint effort. Don't give up. Never."

READ MORE: PM threatens curfew and travel ban

Non amo i selfie. Ieri, però, questa foto me la sono scattata. Dopo 13 ore in Terapia Intensiva, dopo essermi tolto...

Posted by Nicola Sgarbi on Saturday, 14 March 2020

Meanwhile, a nurse in Milan said that while she was not afraid to go shopping, she was "afraid to go to work."

In a message alongside her own selfie, Alessia Bonari wrote: "I'm afraid because the mask may not adhere well to the face, or I may have accidentally touched myself with dirty gloves, or maybe the lenses do not completely cover my eyes and something may have passed.

READ MORE: NHS worker 'battles' through supermarket queues to feed his family amid coronavirus stockpiling

"I am physically tired because the protective devices are bad, the lab coat makes you sweat, and once dressed I can no longer go to the bathroom or drink for six hours.

"I am psychologically tired, and as are all my colleagues who have been in the same condition for weeks, but this will not prevent us from doing out job as we have always done.

"I will continue to take care of my patients because I am proud and love my job."

In response to a selfie posted to Reddit, another healthcare worker said the masks were "very tight fitting" and "difficult to breathe in sometimes."

They added: "I wish I had thought to take post-shift pics of myself after leaving the hospital.

"Although, I look so bad, you all would think I'm a drunk or something (I'm not, just to clear that up)."

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In the UK, concerns are mounting over the spread of Covid-19 and how it could possibly lead to the overwhelming of the NHS.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that "further action" could, therefore, be ahead to ensure people adhere to social distancing guidelines laid out by the government.

Health workers have also echoed the same sentiment of staying indoors to curb the spread of the illness.

"I'm begging people - please, please do social distancing and self-isolation," Ms Silvey said.

READ MORE: Warnings of 'further action' as people ignore social distancing guidelines

Ms Bonari added: "What I ask anyone who is reading this post is not to frustrate the effort we are making, but to be selfless, to stay at home and thus protect those who are most fragile.

"We young people are not immune to coronavirus, we too can get sick - or worse.

"I can't afford the luxury of going back to my quarantined house, I have to go to work and do my part.

"You do yours, I ask you, please."

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