At war against an invisible enemy

09/04/2020

In this series of articles we meet, recognise and celebrate some of the many members of the hockey community – administrators, officials, players who are at the frontline in the fight to contain and stop Corona Virus. Our ‘Excellent Eight’ featured in this series represent the thousands of people from the European hockey family putting themselves and their health on the line at this unprecedented time.

Lorenza Di Guardo is an Italian doctor specialising in oncology the treatment of people with cancer. She says that the current COVID-19 crisis has completely changed the lives of herself and her patients.

It is well documented that Italy has been a hot spot for COVID-19 in recent weeks and tragically many of Lorenza’s medical colleagues have become victims of the virus, contracting the illness and, in several cases, losing their lives.

You can sense the grief and emotion in Lorenza’s voice as she says: “Doctors and nurses are the professionals most exposed to the risk of contracting the infection and many doctors in Italy, unfortunately, have died from COVID-19. Moreover, there is also a higher risk of contracting and dying from the illness for our patients with cancer due to their compromised immune defences.

“I personally feel as if I’m living at war against an insidious invisible enemy who is not facing up to anyone. Experiencing so many deaths every day in Italy is emotionally very tough.”

The situation is harrowing. Patients admitted with COVID-19 are dying in isolation without the support of their family and Lorenza’s own cancer patients live in fear of stepping inside a hospital for their regular, necessary treatment, for fear of contracting COVID-19.

“Currently everyone is realising how hard this enemy is. People are now afraid and have understood how important it is to stay home to avoid the spread of the virus. The most recurrent feeling among people in this period is fear but also hope, that the situation will improve soon.”

Despite the emotional and stressful conditions that the hospital staff are living under, Lorenza says one of the true positives to have emerged from the crisis is the strong sense of collaboration between the hospital staff.

In better times, Lorenza is a committed and hard-working member of the Italian Hockey Federation. She is on the board and takes responsibility for Para Hockey as well as the women’s side of the game. She provides medical support for the Para athletes when they travel to competitions. Her own club, Cernusco, was due to have held a ParaHockey Festival this summer but COVID-19 has caused that event to be postponed for now.

During this traumatic past few weeks, Lorenza says that some of the qualities she developed on the hockey pitch – teamwork, facing challenges and a sense of belonging – have been invaluable to her work in the hospital.

But as a doctor and particularly as an oncologist, Lorenza had her own unique and strong perspective on a life long before COVID-19 made its ugly presence felt. “My work makes me live life differently. I believe that, above all, we must be grateful for being healthy: all other matters are secondary issues.

“Nevertheless, as a hockey administrator, I am aware that we need to stay positive. I am conscious that we might need to start all over to reconstruct our hockey society, not only in Italy but in many other nations as well.

“And my message is a simple one: ‘Do not underestimate this terrible virus because it can violently affect not only the elderly but also young people. With the exception of health workers, the only way we can try to avoid the virus is to stay at home. The sooner we manage to beat coronavirus the sooner we return to play our beloved sport.”

Earlier in the series, we spoke to Peter Elders, Hospital Facilities Manager: Preparation is key as Peter moves into crisis mode.

Photo: Dr. Di Guardo is pictured right with Marco Carboni (responsible ParaHockey Italian Hockey Federation and Sabina Zampetti, EHF Executive Board member

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