'I Cannot Thank Them Enough'

April 8, 2020 • Italy
Dr. Julie McKay prays for Umberto after his transfer from the ICU, where he was on a ventilator for more than two weeks.
Dr. Julie McKay prays for Umberto after his transfer from the ICU, where he was on a ventilator for more than two weeks.

Coronavirus patients at Italy field hospital are grateful as they recover from near death. They are seeing Jesus at work through the care of our staff.

Emergency Medicine

“When you go through something like this, you really get scared.”

For days, Umberto struggled to breathe normally and his temperature had slowly risen to an alarming 105 degrees. He recognized the warning signs of the disease that had disrupted the daily lives of so many in his Italian community.

Umberto speaks with his doctor and a translator.

Umberto speaks with his doctor and a translator.

An ambulance rushed him to Cremona Hospital on March 17 where he tested positive for COVID-19. Doctors and nurses placed Umberto on a ventilator to keep him breathing—his lungs were not strong enough to keep him alive on their own.

“I remember that someone said now I am going to fall asleep,” Umberto said. “Then I only remember that I woke up and I saw you [Samaritan’s Purse staff] and that is it.”

Umberto was among the initial intensive care patients treated at the Samaritan’s Purse Emergency Field Hospital in the city of Cremona, Italy. He was transferred to our mobile hospital, specially outfitted as a respiratory care unit, still on a ventilator and unable to breathe on his own.

At the time, no coronavirus patients once in ICU at Cremona Hospital had ever survived. Samaritan’s Purse doctors and nurses prayed for a miracle—that Umberto would be one of many patients to walk out of our ICU as a living testimony to the healing power found in Christ.

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After more than two weeks on life support, that prayer was answered. Umberto woke up and was finally able to breathe on his own. He was overjoyed to be met with the smiling faces of our medical staff who had cared for him.

Though he had been mostly unconscious during his time in the ICU, he heard team members praying over him and reading the Bible. That continued, even more so, once he was alert and removed from life support.

ICU nurse, holds Umberto's hand during his time on a ventilator.

Claudia, a night shift ICU nurse, holds Umberto’s hand during his time on a ventilator.

“Everything was about Jesus,” Umberto said. “Everything they do, I could feel that they didn’t do it only because they are nurses and doctors but also because they really believe in Jesus.”

Umberto is now stable and healthy in one of our male wards—looking forward to being reunited with his wife and kids at home. He recognizes that he is a miracle, repeating over and over that he feels as if he has been “rebirthed.”

“I cannot even describe it—only the thought that I am here is a miracle,” Umberto said. “It’s like being reborn and now I’m seeing things from another point of view.”

He is forever grateful to the Samaritan’s Purse doctors and nurses for their spiritual support and physical care. “There aren’t words to describe it, I cannot thank them enough. There are no words to thank them—saying thank you wouldn’t be enough.”

Presenting the Gospel, Seeing God’s Protection

With good news coming from the patient wards, Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief specialists on the ground in Italy are encouraged as they celebrate Holy Week, looking forward to Easter Sunday and the reminder that Christ is risen.

Our medical staff made "palm branches" and signs to celebrate Palm Sunday and Easter.

Our medical staff made “palm branches” and signs to celebrate Palm Sunday and Easter.

On Palm Sunday, team members gathered in the heart of the field hospital, waving olive branches and singing ‘Hosanna in the Highest’ in both English and Italian at sunrise. Just as crowds paved the way for Christ with palm branches, Samaritan’s Purse staff members are making a way for Christ to work in people’s lives at the Emergency Field Hospital.

“Samaritan’s Purse is a paver of God’s Word to come to people that probably never had the Gospel presented to them in a real, tangible way,” said Damaris Scalzi, a chaplain with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. “Christ laid down his life, it wasn’t taken from him. COVID-19 is taking lives, but the Lord is giving [patients] an opportunity to have peace regardless of the outcome. It’s a perfect time for us to be here, actually during this season, during this holiday.”

Each day as Samaritan’s Purse team members enter the hospital site, an empty tent serves as a reminder of God’s protection.

Damaris prays while a patient is admitted to the ICU.

Damaris prays while a patient is admitted to the ICU.

“I think one of the coolest parts of being here at the site is coming in the morning and seeing one of our tents set aside for any staff who get sick; right now, it is empty,” said Matthew Hodgkins, a member of our Disaster Assistance Response Team.

“On Easter, we celebrate the fact that the tomb is empty, that He was resurrected, that He rose again. And so just being able to come here and see an empty tent every single day, is a reminder of His hand of protection over us.”

We rejoice with our teams in the Lord’s protection and thank God for those who are being touched by the Lord Jesus Christ through our Emergency Field Hospital in Italy. Several have been released, recovered, from intensive care; and also reports of salvations are already coming in! Please pray for those who have heard the Gospel but have not yet responded. Please continue to pray for God’s strength, guidance, and protection as our teams continue to serve patients in Jesus’ Name.

Pray also for our Disaster Assistance Response Team serving in New York City, where Samaritan’s Purse has another 68-bed Emergency Field Hospital set up in Central Park. Pray that God will soon bring an end to this deadly pandemic.

If you are a Christian healthcare professional, please go here to apply to serve in Jesus’ Name during this COVID-19 response.

Our teams continue to work hard and to serve in Jesus' Name during this global pandemic.

Our teams continue to work hard and to serve in Jesus’ Name during this global pandemic.

We began today receiving patients at the respiratory care unit.
Emergency Medicine Your gift will enable Samaritan’s Purse to provide life-saving medical care (including doctors, nurses, respirators, and other essential equipment) to hurting and vulnerable communities. We respond in the wake of natural and manmade disasters, as well as during outbreaks of infectious diseases. We also offer public health outreaches to prevent the spread of life-threatening illnesses. Most important, our teams bring the Gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who are suffering and afraid.

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