Italian doctor pens inspiring letter from COVID-19 trenches: Can’t take anything for granted … all is ‘gift’
MILAN, Italy, April 3, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― A doctor at the frontlines of Italy’s battle against the coronavirus has written a moving letter about prayer, gratitude, and human solidarity.
Dr. Amedeo Capetti, an infectious disease specialist at the Luigi Sacco Hospital in Milan, wrote to the editor of Il Foglio, a centrist national newspaper, to describe the psychological and spiritual phenomena he is witnessing as a physician at the center of the pandemic.
Capetti dismisses the shallow expressions of bravado that are obscuring deeper spiritual realities. He wrote that he was not convinced by the “new idolatry” of medical professionals caused by the pandemic. He believes this is merely a “completely understandable attempt to exorcise a most human fear.” He is likewise unimpressed by cries that “we are going to make it.”
“Who is going to make it?” he asked. “You to whom I am writing and I? The Italian people understood abstractly? All this doesn’t convince me and leaves me frankly perplexed.”
The virologist objects to a desire for everyone to “leap over” the “drama of the present” toward the end of the epidemic because he believes there is something transformative to be learned now.
Before Capetti was recruited into the battle against COVID-19, he was an expert in antiretroviral therapy, working with 650 HIV+ patients. He reported that these patients now almost never complain but instead send him daily messages to ask how he is “and also to participate in the incredible and exceptional experience that I am living.”
This is his reason for writing to the editor, he explained, because it illustrates a phenomenon that doctors often see in those who have escaped from mortal peril, which is “the experience of opening their eyes and realizing that nothing can be taken for granted.”
“That is, everything is a gift -- waking up in the morning, greeting our loved ones, and every little moment of a day that for some must be filled, but for others like me has become, if such a thing is possible, even more whirling than before,” he wrote.
Capetti said the “grace of this new self-awareness transforms everything that we do, creating amazement and friendship” and a special closeness to the sick.
“We look at one another and say: ‘Today we can’t hug, but a smile says even more than a hug could say.’ This awareness allows us to become participants in the drama of our patients,” he wrote.
People on the frontlines of the medical emergency are also engaging one another spiritually. The virologist reported also that his colleagues are, for the very first time, asking him to pray “not only for their loved ones but for their patients.”
“And this also is contagious,” Capetti wrote.
“Yesterday, a woman from Crema called me to find out about her grandmother who is hospitalized and seriously ill at the Sacco (Hospital). She told me about her other grandmother, dead of COVID-19, and about her mother, on life support in Crema, and then she told me,’You see, doctor, at the beginning I prayed, but now I don’t pray anymore.’”
“I replied, ‘I understand, Ma’am. Don’t worry. I will pray for her.’ At hearing this, she was jolted and said, ‘Well, Doctor, if you do it, I will do it too. And together we will also pray for my mama.’”
“All of this is such a treasure and grace that if more people became aware of it, it could, in my opinion, have a great civic value,” Capetti continued.
“Recognizing that we are fragile and that everything is given to us, starting from the ability to breathe, today so little taken for granted, would smooth out many differences and useless discussions.”
Capetti finally addressed the possibility of keeping this awareness alive even when the pandemic is over, given the lamentable habit of human beings to return to their old vices “after a period of great enthusiasm.”
”From what I understand, this gratitude must become a sensible reflection on what is happening, one that is best expressed in the questions that we are asking now and that are uniting us,” he wrote.
“Ultimately, what is the cause of all this? Why did our eyes suddenly open and start to see the real essence of things? Where can this experience take us? Where can we find this human gaze upon each other that we see today in other situations? Who can help us?”
The doctor said the experience of amazement “bursting into life,” the sense that “nothing can be taken for granted and everything is a gift,” began for him many years ago, and that every time it happens again, he becomes more sure of its origin.
“For others, it will be a new journey,” he wrote.
“I cannot give, and I do not want to give, pre-established answers because everyone, like me, can understand only by having the experience,” he continued.
“But I can raise the question, for nothing should be taken for granted or be reduced intellectually or aesthetically.”
Italy, which has taken the brunt of the European wave of the Wuhan COVID-19 pandemic, has now reported 151,242 cases and 13,915 coronavirus-related deaths.