Newsletter June 2020: COVID-19 epidemic: a Romanian anaesthesiologist in Italy

Dr Monica Sandu



I am anaesthesia and intensive care specialist working in Bucharest, Romania. In April 2020, I volunteered to work for 3 weeks in northern Italy, one of the most affected areas in Europe during the COVID-19 outbreak.

It was the month of March when this terrible new viral illness had started spreading throughout Europe.
The speed with which COVID-19 was making people ill and taking lives was incomprehensible.
By far, northern Italy had been struck the hardest among the European regions. Italy was struggling with the insurmountable number of people growing sick by the hour.
Deeply saddened by the toll COVID-19 was taking on human lives, I immediately felt the need to get involved and help; I enrolled in the effort to help the region of Lombardia as soon as the news reached us that anaesthesiologists were needed.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding this whole grim situation, I made the decision to offer the best I had to try and help the people of Lombardia. Of course, I was afraid and not so much for myself, but more so for my family members, whom I would leave behind, not knowing whether they might also get affected by this illness while I was away.
I took a breath of fresh air, I hoped for the best and embarked on this adventure…
I had not met beforehand any of the Romanian colleagues  I would work alongside in Italy, but I was sure we were all guided by the same desire to help and do what we had been trained to do for so many years as doctors.

In Italy, I was immediately assigned to the Ospedale San Leopoldo Mandic of Merrate, which is a hospital about 30 minutes away from the beautiful city of Lecco.
We were greeted by the Anaesthesia Department Chief, Dr Davide Guzzon, who always had a good and kind word for us, even in these difficult times.
We felt like home right away, everybody was very welcoming.

Our workday would start with the morning rounds, during which we would take over from the previous night shift, discussing each patient, including the ICU patients and also all the other patients who were high risk for requiring a ventilator later on in the day.

The Romanian group of doctors integrated immediately, working side by side with the Italian team of doctors; we were always sharing ideas, contributing to plans of care, giving our best.

We grew more and more aware of the magnitude of this terrible situation, and I realized how much focus, determination and strength managing this pandemic would take.

Working as a volunteer physician in Lombardia has been an extremely rewarding experience and I would wholeheartedly choose to volunteer again.

I had the opportunity to meet many amazing individuals in Lombardia, doctors and patients alike, I was part of their story, filled with desperation at times, but also strength and hope. I have confidence that humanity shall always prevail in the toughest moments.


Lombardia April 2020


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