The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has deployed to Cremona, Italy, to serve alongside the Disaster Response Team of Samaritan’s Purse in the midst of the global pandemic.
Italy has become the new epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, with the country’s total number of deaths from COVID-19 now exceeding China’s. The city of Cremona, just south of Milan in the Lombardy region, has the highest death toll by far of any region within Italy.
On March 8, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte issued a lockdown of Italy’s Lombardy region, effectively quarantining about 16 million people in the northern part of the country.
“It seems relaxed because everyone is staying inside and people are cooking and looking at old photos and doing work at home,” Francesco Longo, director of the Centre for Research on Health and Social Care Management at Bocconi University in Milan, told NBC News. “But in the hospitals, it’s like a war.”
With the rapid influx of coronavirus cases, Cremona Hospital has been forced to suspend all medical care except for maternity and pediatrics. Samaritan’s Purse has set up its mobile field hospital in the Cremona Hospital parking lot to help care for an overflow of coronavirus patients.
Crisis-trained RRT chaplains Jason and Damaris Scalzi, from Vineland, New Jersey, are planning to travel to Cremona in the coming days to partner with Samaritan’s Purse in serving the hard-hit region.
“As Italy has now surpassed China in the number of deaths from COVID-19, we are blessed that two RRT chaplains are joining the Samaritan’s Purse team at the field hospital in northern Italy to provide spiritual and emotional care for patients as well as the doctors and nurses who are tirelessly caring for the sick during this global pandemic,” Josh Holland, assistant director of the RRT, told Decision.
While working around the clock to combat this novel virus, Italian hospital workers have expressed the emotional toll of watching hundreds of patients die each day.
“When somebody passes away on your watch, it does hurt. It does do a lot of damage. But [it’s important] to just come alongside of [the medical professionals] and say, ‘You did the best that you can. There are some answers you just won’t know on this side of heaven,’” said Jason, a retired police officer and Iraqi War veteran.
The couple plans to spend 30 days in Italy and spend 14 days in isolation upon return to the United States.
“It sounds long but it is a short time for us to help. Especially when we’ve got medical people in all countries right now fighting this 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Damaris.
As for fear of contracting COVID-19, “That’s where your faith has to come in,” Damaris said. “If you feel called to help someone—to help the sick—you can’t shrink away.”
Above: Medical staff stand in the parking lot of Cremona Hospital in Cremona, Italy, where Samaritan’s Purse has set up its mobile field hospital.
Photo: Piero Cruciatti/Sipa USA/AP Images